Sunday, April 29, 2007

Your first hole-in-one

Getting your first hole in one

They say that getting your first hole-in-one is a life-changing experience, but it’s a feeling that has yet eluded me. Janet got a hole-in-one on a 30-yard pitch-and-putt in England a few years back, but it’s quite another thing to get a hole-in-one on a par 72 course.

I got a glimpse of this yesterday when I came with 18 inches of a hole-in-one on a par 3, 143 yard hole. Janet and I just joined a second country club, and as first-timers, the members always check you out, it’s only natural. Their golf course is great fun, but challenging, with narrow fairways, high changes in elevation, giant bunkers and small greens, a humbling experience all-around.

Their signature hole is the 9th, a tight uphill hole with the green adjacent to the clubhouse where everyone can see your shot. Here is the hole:

After the first 8 holes plagued with triple bogies, I knew that we were being watched. I made a point of dropping my ball at the tee box to show that I didn’t need any stinking tee, and using my trusty six-iron, I hit a one in a hundred shot that Tiger Woods would have been satisfied with. It was perfection, a hit shot that dented the green just a few inches from the pin! BTW, these Callaway Big Bertha irons are amazing, the best I’ve ever used, perfect for a beginner like me.

After my lucky shot, folks lined-up on the veranda to see if Janet’s was a crack shot, and I made the mistake of telling her, too much stress for a beginner:

Henderson Country club

She made a valiant effort, but dribbled her shot . . .

As a brand-new member I wondered if anyone would mention my shot, which is a common occurrence at this club because they have many outstanding golfers. I made it clear that I’m a beginner, but it was nice to get a glimpse of glory, and even though today was not my day, I now have a taste for a hole-in-one, and I’ll surely be working on my short game.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Google job interview tips

Google wants to interview me!

I just got an invitation to interview for a job at Google Inc. Evidently, I’m among the “best and the brightest”, cool:

“I was extremely impressed with your skills and background.

I wanted to contact you to see if you were interested in exploring some career opportunities here with us at Google.

We are looking for the best and the brightest, and we are hiring for a number of positions all over the country and even the world.”

I hear that Google is one of the best places to work in the world. CNN says that Google is the best place to work in the whole world:

“Shooting straight to the top in its first appearance on our list, the Best Company to Work For in America sets the standard for Silicon Valley and beyond. . .

Our new No. 1 sets the standard for Silicon Valley: free meals, swimming spa, and free doctors onsite. Engineers can spend 20% of time on independent projects.

No wonder Google gets 1,300 résumés a day.”

The food at Google's 11 cafeterias on its Mountain View, Calif., campus is not only fabulous, it's free.

"It's a typical Wednesday morning breakfast in Slice Café: house-baked spelt bread french toast drizzled with ginger Infused maple syrup and topped with caramelized pinata apples, served with hot coconut-masala muesli, coco-berry granola and crimson gold heirloom apples."

Google has one of the world's hardest job interviews, and the ability to over-generalize and simplify complex concepts with analogies is a critical skill for any Guru, a skill highly-prized by Google.

Check-out the Google job interview questions where job candidates must explain computer concepts to a hypothetical 8 year-old:

Q: "Explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew."

I’m flattered . . . .

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Barak the magic Negro?

After Don Imus was canned for his offensive "nappy" comments, you would think that radio personalities would get the message.

I wasn’t even sure what “nappy” meant, and I had to look it up of the Internet. This is a dog nappy:

Why are people not mad at Rush?

Now I see that everyone’s favorite ultra-conservative Rush Limbaugh has just released the song “Barak the Magic Negro”, no kidding:

Click here to listen to song Barak the Magic Negro (warning: Offensive content)

IMHO, this is way more offensive and Imus, but evidently other people don’t think so . . .

DNA may make Indians lose special status

The discovery of an ancient US inhabitant of non-Indian origins has posed a real threat to the rights of Native Americans. Dubbed Kennewick Man, the fossil skull dates to at least 5,000 years ago, and he has distinct non-Indian features.

Without Reservation

The problem started when the Native Americans demanded the skull for burial, and were refused because the skull was clearly not related to today’s Native Americans:

“In February 2004 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a cultural link between the tribes and the skeleton was not met, opening the door for more scientific study.”

Scientists have concluded that the Native Americans may have been a more diverse group that originally thought and when proof is discovered that some Native Americans are from European descent, the doors will open for all Americans to start their own reservations and casinos.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Gourmet dog food

Our spoiled Yorkie eats only Chef Michael's dog food:

At about $1 for 3 ounces, that's a cost of over $5 a pound for dog food!

Also, this new people/petfood website offers foods for both man and beast, crossover chow for dog livers who want to dine with Fido!

“The very same plant that makes food for humans makes Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance® Eatables™ For Dogs! Eatables™ is a complete and balanced premium dog food which contains a superior mixture of the finest meats, as well as fresh vegetables and premium ingredients your dog will love.”

In some foreign countries (Europe) you can take Fido to dinner, and it’s also becoming popular in California, where posh Rodeo Drive eateries allow Fido to dine with you in the patio area.

Horseback riding in Central Park

Horseback riding in Central Park is a real treat!

In sad news, this article reports that the Claremont Stable is closing after 115 years of operation:
“Claremont Riding Academy on the Upper West Side, a national historical site and the oldest continuously operated stable in the country, is closing down for lack of business, employees said last night.”

Opened in 1892, the Claremont provided me and Janet for many a pleasant afternoon of riding in Central Park. Nestled on the upper west side on 89th near Columbus, I have no doubt that the real estate is worth millions, and this factors into the closing decision:

It was at the Claremont that Janet and I discovered that horses could understand traffic signals and guide their riders the long block to Central Park. It was part of this observation that led us to develop the “Guide Horse Foundation”. We love taking our horses to NYC:

The Claremont stable is amazing, with a tiny riding area inside, a multi-levels where the horses would be sent up-and-down on large ramps.

We will miss those great afternoons, running-down joggers in Central Park from horseback. . .

Friday, April 20, 2007

Creative Segway Kiosks

The segway has evolved from a gyro toy into a legitimate utility vehicle despite the $6k price tag and the mega-nerd reputation.

We see that the segway folks are going to great lengths to find uses for these silly things. Most folks don’t know that a segway can clip along at over 15 MPH, and the new Gen-3 Segways have removed the problem of steering by allowing leaning to indicate a turn (the Gen-2 models have a turkey left-side hand steering contraption).

Segway for Sports

Segway golf is becoming popular, but it's not much help standing through 18 holes:

Segway Kiosks are also a new fad as they take-up only a small space and they are mobile:

It's a true story that President Bush fell off a Segway, and in fairness, they can be difficult to learn at first:

The military is also exploring the Segway technology, most likely because of the Macho reputation of Segway users.

And let's not forget that it was the rednecks who invented the Segway idea:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Learning the long golf drive

I want a long drive!

Underneath all of my fat is an athlete waiting to be discovered, and I’ve been surprising myself with a strong long drives. It’s happens rarely, but occasionally I get in-sync and send a rocket ball flying the length of 3 football fields down the fairway. It’s got to be a rush putting for an eagle on a 517 yard hole, but you need to be able to consoistently drive 250 yards!

Faldo's swing

Craig Stadler, a fellow my size and age who can play some serious golf. Craig shows in his video lessons how 95% of a power swing comes from the legs, and it’s true.

I went first-class and signed-up for drive training by Brad Clayton, a would-renowned PGA instructor. He runs the Golf Zone in Oxford, and here is one of his lessons online, and his testimonials. He is also a golf expert in USA Today.

Brad Clayton, PGA Professional

Brad has totally dismantled my swing, changing my grip, stance, backswing and follow-through. But he know what he’s doing, and Janet and I have been practicing religiously, seeking the day when we can send a long golf drive into the next county.

I have a long way to go, but with dedication and practice I should be able to start driving like a pro, even if I five putt . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How to avoid telephony questions

I hate calling any company and the endless series of computerized questions without getting a real live human representative.

This great site has a list of major corporation telephone numbers and tips for avoiding the telephony and getting right to the humans:

Foreign hatred and the tragedy at Virginia Tech

The tragedy at Virginia Tech ranks as the second largest foreign suicide terrorist attack in US history, right behind 911.

In the wake of yesterday’s brutal murders of 32 students by a South Korean national, Americans suggest the need to reexamine our open-door policy to foreign visitors from nations that do not like the USA. As the facts unfold, we will see that this was not the work of an isolated student, it was a well-planned attack by a foreign alien who prepared a vest with over 100 rounds of ammo.

For whatever the reasons, it's a reality that millions of foreigners hate America and yet I wonder why they flock to American Universities and come here to work in America.

Some people are saying that the USA no longer has the luxury of trying to separate the “good” foreigners from the “bad guys” and nobody can deny that these tragic murders would not have occurred if we did not allow foreign students into American universities.

The students react to campus terrorism

Vanderbilt University notes that terrorism has changed student visas, and that student visas are a great way for terrorists to enter the USA:

“Most Americans have the perception that at least some of the Sept. 11 terrorists took advantage of laws that allow foreign students to study in the United States. Understandably, many see this as a loophole that needs to be closed quickly and tightly.”

Monday, April 16, 2007

Irish Lighthouse offers a great deal on a used car

An Irish lighthouse manager is selling his car, a great deal:

- 1985 Blue Volkswagen Golf
- Only 15 km
- Only first gear and reverse used
- Never driven hard
- Original tires. Original brakes
- Original fuel and oil
- Only 1 driver
- Owner wishing to sell due to employment lay-off

Friday, April 13, 2007

National faggot week

Those whacky Brits!

In this BBC new article titled “Family of faggot fans fly the flag”, we learn about the eating the English faggot and the Doody’s who started the “National Faggot Week”:

“The Doody family from Wolverhampton has been crowned The Faggot Family in a national competition, and to kick off their reign they will launch National Faggot Week”

It’s quite odd on all counts. First, are there really people named “Doody”, and why do they like to eat faggots, made by a "Brain"?

"The great British faggot is full of flavour and a great belly warmer at this time of year."

There is evidently a faggot producer involved, Mr “Brain”?

“The competition was organised by faggot producer Mr Brain's Faggots.”

This is very, very confusing to me . . . . It's like their desert "Spotted Dick".

Me, I could never ask an English waiter for it:

"Excuse me, do you have spotted dick?"

Followup: Ah, English faggots are evidently meatballs, and there really are "Doody's" promoting them, from Mr. Brain!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Google Maps: Swim the Altantic ocean

1. Go to

2. In the search box, type: new york, ny to paris, france

3. Check out the map and direction #23

Thanks Steve!

Kilgore Trout would be proud

It’s sad to hear that Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday.

Don’t miss this video, his last TV appearance, Vonnegut on the Daily Show with John Liebowitz.

A Cornell man (biochemistry major), Vonnegut became a WWII veteran, POW, and decorated Purple Heart winner, and later, Vonnegut became a counterculture icon and one of the greatest authors of the 20th century.

I’ve read all of his books, and Vonnegut was the great educator of the 1960’s, a war hero with a purple heart, a POW and a proud veteran, who made a statement for peace that everyone could embrace.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

FCC may regulate the Internet

In the wake of the Kathy Sierra threat scandal, not to mention the dozens of people who have been murdered by web predators, we now see Uncle Charley taking a serious interest in regulating the web!

Your friends at the FCC

Uncle Charley has been very effective in the past in regulating broadcasting via radio, and the Internet is easier because they don’t have to track-down offenders in the back woods with CB radios. This Computerworld publication titled "Why the FCC will regulate the Internet" notes:

"Government controls over the Internet are not only coming - they're already here”

I’ve noted here that the proposed sanctions by the FCC are long overdue, and they recognize that only government regulation will stop the abuse by anonymous web scum.

Totally voluntary efforts at implementing a web code of conduct (such as Tim O’Reilly) will have no effect whatsoever on the bad guys.

I got my first FCC license back in the 1960’s (FCC radiotelephone operators permit) and there is absolutely nothing wrong with registering with the FCC, unless you are a bad guy. Honest folks have nothing to fear.

Some say that even Jesus himself loves the FCC:

Interestingly, the FCC overrides the rights of the First Amendment (and, BTW the immunity of section 230 of the DMCA), and it’s clear that anyone who broadcasts, whether by radio, TV or a web blog, should be duly licensed and required to fully identify themselves.

Only criminals will fear this coming non-anonymous internet, and I expect a huge backlash from deviants, porn peddlers and hippies, it’s clear that Uncle Charley can come to the rescue of the ailing Internet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blocking pop ups ads

Pop-up ads are always annoying, but some vendors are now placing pop-up ads that block the content, and follow you as you scroll down through the text.

Most of them can be closed, but I ran into this one today that would not close until I clicked on the ad.

This is negative advertising, and it’s certainly reduced my esteem for both this domain and Solaris:

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The history of Easter Eggs

Have an old fashioned Easter

It’s funny to watch religious holidays that have lost their true meaning over the centuries, only to bear little resemblance to their original intent.

I wonder what Easter was like back in the 4th century, when Christians finally took-over Rome? Did they have a Roman Easter Bunny, delivering goose eggs in a toga?

Since Easter coincides with the pagan spring rituals, I’ll bet that they slaughtered a cute baby lamb for a feast.

Today, Easter is extremely confusing, especially to kids, you struggle to understand the religious significance of a bunny dressed like Elton John delivers hard-boiled eggs that reek of vinegar.

Easter is a candy-gorge for kiddies, an opportunity to disembowel a chocolate bunny the size of a housecat. And lets not forget those pastel jelly beans (shat from the chocolate bunny, no doubt), and those gross Cadbury eggs with the candy yolks.

And what, exactly is the religious significance of bunnies who deliver eggs? I have my own theories.

When our kids were little we got about 6 dozen eggs and we boiled them until the smell of sulfur permeated the house. It was then time to open-up the vinegar packets and soak the suckers into pastel colors, where they were deposited in hiding places in the back yard.

Of course, some of the eggs were not found until mid summer when the rotting stench announced their presence from 50 feet away.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bad perceptions of British tourists

George Bernard Shaw once said: "The British and the Americans are two people separated by a common language", and this is very true of the British traveler.

To many American's, British tourists can come-off as reserved, stuck-up, unfriendly and formal, and they have a vast array of strange provincial words, like "blighter" and "wanker" that nobody has ever heard of.

About cultural stereotypes

As an American, I get used to the stereotypes of American tourists as “fat”, “spoiled” and “demanding”, and our American tendency to “put-down” things that are not the same as home.

Personally, I love the cultural differences, even the tiny ones.

For example, here is the USA, we like soda with at least a half-glass of ice, a habit that many British folks mock us for. I’ve had waitresses refuse to load-up a glass with ice, claiming that I was “boorish” for insisting on such a nasty thing. To many Europeans, having ice with a drink means floating a few tiny ice cubes in their drink.

Social scientists talk about the concept of “cultural tourism”, and I’ve seen firsthand some of the cultural differences across the pond:

- American tourists are often seen as obsessed with coffee, as British folks are with tea.

- Americans tourists are seen by British people as “loud” and “boisterous” while Americans see British tourists as “reserved”.

This BBC article titled “British – World’s worst tourists”, quotes a study where nationality was correlated to general behaviors. It notes:

“Germans were the best-behaved and the British, Irish and Danish the worst.”

“The Germans did not perform well in the spending and tipping stakes and were described as the meanest nation - closely followed by the British.”

Personally, I like most Brits, but I don't understand why they are portrayed in movies as having bad teeth:

I don’t know where this “bad teeth” stereotype originated, but it common fodder for comedians, including Jay Leno and the South Park cartoonists, where Parker and Stone draw British people with hideous teeth.

Parker & Stone - Creators of South Park

Personally, I’ve seen lots worse right here in rural North Carolina, and the sales of “Bubba teeth” confirm this perception:

Why do some people dislike British tourists?

According to Expedia UK, British are the most unwelcome of all tourists. Germans are the most welcome foreign visitors and British are the least, scoring worst in all but one of five key criteria: their behavior; politeness; willingness to learn the lingo; enthusiasm to try the local delicacies; and how much money they put into the local economy."

They are said to be a sarcastic people, and sincere complements like "have a nice day" and often misconstrued by a British person as an insult, since they rarely say nice things to one-another. This article notes:

"One of the worst things you can say to a Brit is "Have a nice day". It sounds incredibly insincere in England, and is almost equivalent to "Go f*** yourself".

If you have a broad American accent you may get away with it, but people will probably give you questioning looks all the same."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Marry your driver, date your putter

There is an old golf saying that “You marry your driver and date your putter”, and this is especially true for me.

Once I find a driver that I can hit, I’ll keep it forever, and this has put me behind the times, since golf technology has changed radically in the past 15 years. Like other golfers, I’ve probably bought over two dozen putters, and I’m always a sucker for any putter that promised to shave strokes off my game.

The grief of losing a loved-one

After almost 20 years, my trusty driver finally disintegrated, and I’m left bewildered, heartbroken and distressed. It’s a nightmare that I can hardly recall without getting teary-eyed.

On the 12th hole my graphite shaft came un-done during my downswing, making a horrifying “wizzzzz” sound as the strands came unglued. I rushed her to the golf hospital where I was the club grievance counselor told me that a repair was impossible and she was gone forever.

Dating a new driver

So here I am, dating new drivers for the first time in nearly two decades. Friend paid their condolences and each and every one offered-up advice on the sexist new drivers. Still stunned with grief, I told the pro that I wanted the best driver that money could by, but I was not prepared for the prices, with costs up to $1,500 for a Callaway tour issue FT-5.

Callaway is the current “prestige” driver, and with prices up to $1,500 each, I expected them to be gold plated. NO WAY I’m paying that much money for a driver.

There are two things that I absolutely hate about these new 21st century drivers:

Huge heads – Everybody likes a little head, but these new drivers are of mammoth proportion, with heads the size of a McDonald’s Big Mac! The first time a tried one, I feared that I would be laughed at, as it looks like I was compensating for something.

Stupid sounds – My old driver made a crisp “crr-aaack” sound, a manly announcement that a great drive was in progress. Sadly, these new drivers make a gawd-awful “tiii-nnnng” sound, totally ridiculous. In the golf cart, these new drivers make sounds like milk bottles clanging together.

I was told that I was just being old-fashioned, and that even the pros use these obese monster drivers. My old driver had a sweet spot the size of a quarter, and these monsters have a sweet spot the size of a silver dollar! But it's all peer pressure, and if the kids don;t think that they look dumb, I guess I'll get used to it.

Into the 21st Century

Choosing a new driver isn’t easy. They all have wussy names like “big bertha”, sasquatch” and “sumo”, and I’m mortified that I will be laughed-at, using such as huge device.

The SasQuatch driver was highly praised, but even if I could get used to the giant club head, the sound of this club is unworldly. It makes this stupid “dunnngggg” sound, like hitting a metal garbage can with a broomstick:

The Callaway irons are also quite nice, but it’s driving me mad trying to find the exact club weight and shaft for such an important purchase.

Well, I’m not about to be accused of being old-fashioned so I thought that I would try one of these monsters. Sho-nuff, I was laughed-at, especially from my 70 year-old friend who can out-drive me with his one-iron. However, I was amazed that my very first drive took me 320 right down the middle, far longer than my deceased driver.

I could have replace my old driver from eBay, but it’s just not the same, and it’s time to get with the times.

Being a high-tech guy, I chose one of the new FT-i “square head” drivers, like this one:

I’ve never, ever bought a driver without testing it, but my pro says that I won’t be disappointed. I must always remember the other golf saying “It’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive”. So here I am with “the latest” high tech-club which looks silly and makes dumb noises, but hey, will they be laughing when I hit the green in two on a par 5 hole?

Probably . . . . .

Monday, April 02, 2007

Joining a Country Club

Janet and I have finally joined a country club after years of searching for the right fit. We hate showoffs and pretense, and all we want from a country club is good golfing and “real” people. North Carolina has some of the best country clubs in the world, and we had a bewildering array of choices.

Click this link for my complete tips on joining a country club.

Over the years I’ve been invited to play (as a guest) at a wide range of country clubs, from some of the most prestigious country clubs, to good Ole Boy redneck golf clubs.

Even if I had more money than Bill Gates, I would not pay $100,000 to join and $50,000 in yearly fees. Sure, it’s prestigious, but I have no need to show off to anyone, I just want to golf.

For those shopping for country clubs, here are my notes. I categorize country clubs into two tiers, with four distinct types of clubs:

- Posh country clubs:

  • Olde Money clubs
  • Nouveau riche Clubs

- Laymen country clubs:

  • Executive country clubs
  • Blue-collar golf clubs

I noticed that the most exclusive country clubs serves two markets of the idle rich.

These clubs are quite luxurious, and men’s room of the swanky country clubs has fake French attendants in tuxedos with a towel hanging over their forearm. They have shelves of stink-pretty cologne and the attendants fawn all over you, offering to help you with everything, short of shaking your wiener for you.

If I were wealthy I would likely not be accepted into an Olde-Money country club, and there is no way that I would ever join a nouveau riche club. I don't need all these amenities:

The “Olde-Money” Country clubs

Join fee: $500k-$1m
Yearly dues: $100k-$300k
Amenities: Five-star restaurant, wine cellar, polo
Downsides: Snobby, formal, cliquish

It’s funny, the Olde-Money folks are remarkably unpretentious, nice people who have no need to show-off, and they often exclude the newly-minted zillionaires from their clubs, and for very good reasons. These are clubs with strict membership requirements, and include members of the Robber Baron descendents like the Getty’s, DuPont’s and Rockefeller, (but not Carnegie’s as they have no money left). The only outsiders allowed to join these clubs are the “novelty” members, including the occasional politician or movie actor.

The “nouveau riche” Country clubs

Join fee: $100k-$250k
Yearly dues: $50k-$200k
Amenities: Five-star restaurant, wine cellar
Downsides: Pretentious, over-the-top, gaudy

These clubs will take anybody with the money to pay the fees, and they are populated with many folks who only want the status of membership, not the golf.

There are many derogatory terms for the nouveau riche such as “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Bel-Arabs”, and I’ve noticed that, by and large, newly wealthy people have a compulsion to display their wealth via ostentatious and obscene displays.

I remember golfing with a fellow who insisted on passing-around his quarter-million dollar wristwatch, at the 19th hole, bragging about its “complexities”. I also once played with a newly rich Texan and I’ll never forget when he said in his drawl:

“How dew you like mah gold-plated golf cart?”

Executive country clubs

Join fee: $15k-$80k
Yearly dues: $6k-$50k
Amenities: Indoor restaurant, wines with corks
Downsides: Retired professionals

This class of club is populated by first generation successful people, mostly businessmen, corporate executives (country clubs fees are tax deductible to a corporation), plus sundry lawyers and physicians. This class of country clubs include the “community” clubs and local clubs that have high fees to keep out the riff-raff.

Blue Collar country clubs

Join fee: none
Yearly dues: $1.2k-$5k
Amenities: Snack bar with hot dogs and beer
Downsides: Open to the public

These are the most common country clubs, and for what they lack in terms of fine dining and amenities, they make-up for with a lack of pretense.

No stuck-up folks here, just dedicated golfers and ordinary friendly folks.