Thursday, April 22, 2010

Golf is Hard

When it comes to hitting a ball with a stick I'm usually pretty good. Tennis, baseball, softball (which is baseball for fat old people), ping pong and badminton have been no problem. A little instruction and I can hang. I may not be the best but I won't embarrass myself. A few years ago after playing Links on the original Xbox I decided to give golf a try. Like guitar there was an early quick learning curve where I didn't care too much where the ball went. I was just happy to be learning a new activity. Then I hit the wall the separates the beginner from the enthusiast and I got stuck. For over a year now I haven't felt like my golf game is improving.

I'm not out there just hacking either. A former neighbor of mine who really knows his golf gave me some free instruction. I've been going to the range. I've done some practicing in my backyard. I've even listened to the occasionally useful advice of my friend Chris. Still I suck. I never hit the green in regulation, I get no loft from my irons and when I use the driver I have a slice that could take turn 1 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. When I do drive the ball straight it's usually straight into the woods on my right.

First I blamed my clubs. Which is not that much of a cop out because the first set of clubs I bought was a starter set. It cost me about $200. To show you how cheap that is you can spend much more than that for a good driver alone. After playing for a few months I knew my driver was garbage. Last year I bought a new driver. It's a Slazenger and it's really nice. I noticed my driving improved immediately. Even now, as frustrated as I can get, my drives off the tee are better than they were.

Next I bought a new putter because the putter from my starter set, which I actually liked, started breaking down. I noticed it's plastic was peeling away. I payed about $20 for a new blade putter at Dick's Sporting Goods. It's fine. Putting is the one part of my game that doesn't make me want to hurl my clubs into the woods.

In the last few months I've been purchasing new irons at local thrift stores. Now I have a nice set of irons that are a big step up from the cheap stuff I had been using. You know what? I still stink up the golf course each time I play.

It's not that I am swinging from the heels each time or flailing away like Ted Knight's grandson in Caddy Shack so that when I make contact the ball just spins wildly off my club. I do make great contact on occasion and get some nice true straight flights from the golf ball. Sure, the mechanics of my swing aren't perfect. Whose are? The problem is in my brain.

It's because that damn ball is just sitting there. In all other sports when you hit the ball you are reacting. You don't have time to think. Fastball down the middle? Swing! If you are on the move in tennis, chasing down a tough shot by your opponent you don't have time to say to yourself, "Let's see, the opposite baseline is 78 feet away, I am moving to my right, my opponent is rushing the net. If I lob the ball and rush the net myself I should be able to volley the ball to my right and win this point or if I take a big swing now I might be able to hit a passing shot down the right side. Hmmm, he's not moving fast enough to get to the passing shot. Passing shot it is. Whammo!" You just see the situation and hit that passing shot. That's the big reason that one of the hardest shots in tennis is the overhead smash because you have way too much time to think about what to do with one of those.

With golf all the possibilities of your shot face you as that little white ball sits there at your feet. Did I pick the right club? Will I fly the green? Will it be too short and roll back into the water? OK, nice easy back swing. Keep your arms straight. Be smooth. Shift your weight forward. Keep your head down. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN!!! Of course, whoever you are playing golf with is watching you. If you're really lucky then you're on the first tee and twenty or so strangers are watching you sweat. It's horrible! Sometimes I think it would be easier if someone would toss the ball in the air so I could hit it with a baseball bat.

Yogi Berra said that 90% of baseball is half mental. 99% of golf makes me want to go home and go to bed and the the other 1% keeps me coming back again and again. Just when you get to the point you are considering driving the cart into a water hazard in the hope the battery will create enough of a current to electrocute you, you will hit that one shot. It may be 9 iron shot that hits the green and stays on the green, giving you a rare chance at a long par put. A putt that you will miss but sometimes just putting for par is enough. Or it could be that one monster drive of the day. It's long, it's deep and it's straight. Of course you are going screw up the approach shot but at least you had a shot at hitting a green in regulation. Or it could be a nice long putt. Sure, the putt may be for double bogey but reading the green correctly and putting the right touch on the ball and putting the ball in the hole will hold off thoughts of suicide for at least the next two holes. Golf is so hard that one successful series of shots can complete your whole spring. It's so hard that golfing companions deliver heartfelt congratulations with an sincerity men usually only show when drunk. Strangers playing the hole next to yours will congratulate you on a nice shot and likewise. It's called golf etiquette but I call commiserating in shared misery. We all know how much the other is screaming at himself inside his head about an earlier shot that spun off into the trees. Bonds form on golf courses that are otherwise only seen in boot camp, combat or on really bad little league teams.

I have wondered if golf will ever get any easier and, judging by the expression on Phil Mickleson's face as he was winning the Masters late on Sunday, I am now thinking it won't. My shot's may get more accurate but then I'll expect more and then swear as much as before. At least I'm outside getting some sun.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thank God She Lost

Have you seen Sarah Palin's response to the comment President Obama made recently about the United States of America and the burden's of being a superpower. His full comment:

"It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower. When conflicts break out, one way or another, we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure."

Our president made a thoughtful and truthful statement. Our country, as the world's only superpower with its riches and deserved reputation as a force of good in the world, does find itself committing the lives of our military men and women and significant portions of our budget to helping the rest of the world. To take that statement and then say, "Could it be a lack of faith in American exceptionalism?" is intentionally misleading and irresponsible. You can see how simplistic Sarah Palin's argument is. She even thinks "nuclear deterrent" is a relevant term in today's world when the last few times we have been attacked have been by transnational organizations that don't have nuclear capabilities. Choosing her as a representative is a big reason why I will never give the Tea Party people serious consideration. That and the fact they protest government spending while standing on land maintained by the big government they despise so much.

I thank God every day that John McCain lost the presidential election. I lost a lot of respect for him when he chose her as his running mate. He's served his country for most of his life but putting her on the national stage will taint all the good he has done. Elevating her did us all a disservice.

You may not agree with everything President Obama does. I certainly don't. I am, though, pleased to have a president willing to discuss frankly on an international stage the role of our country in this world. We don't need another "America first" cowboy. All they do is create conflict.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

So long, Stinktown

I've wondered before about how it feels to live somewhere like one of those midwestern factory towns or southern textile towns where the one big factory that employs everyone closes and everyone you know loses their. Looks like I'm fixin' to find out. The library isn't too big to fail.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Freedom Park Panoramas

Some of the first panoramas I did were of Freedom Park. I did another today which is directly below. One from September of 2006 from nearly the same spot is below that.

Freedom Park Panorama

Freedom Park Amphitheater

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I took this panorama Easter Sunday and stitched it together this morning. This is from the west on Wilkinson Blvd.

Charlotte Skyline

Monday, April 05, 2010

Hot Naval Action

I purchased some slides off eBay taken by an American sailor during WWII. I think they are from someone that was patrolling the Mediterranean Sea. Not really sure yet. This picture looks to me like they are dropping a mine into the sea. What do you think?

Sailors in 1942 doing something other than spank each other

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Scanning Software

Is there a particular reason why the software that comes with any piece of hardware for your computer is lousy? The first thing I did when I bought my current digital camera was throw away the disc with Canon's software on it. No thanks. Today I broke down and purchased a copy of VueScan. I had finally had enough of wrestling with HP's terrible scanning software. If you had patience the final product was OK but for some reason each slide scan took forever. Was really put me over the edge was that the updated version of the software was worse than the original. Since I have the new software I have been scanning all day and it's been a joy to use decent software for once. I came across another new favorite in the batch of slides I bought that were taken in Michigan in the early 1950s. His name in George Sparks.

003 George Sparks

And this is cool. The interior of the car I drove in Okinawa in 1988-9.
My Okinawa Car

Friday, April 02, 2010

No Bama!

Today President Obama came to town to give a speech and I found out that our local Tea Party group was going to stage a protest. I had to go and take some pictures. I posted a few choice shots below and you can view the whole set here.

He may not be able to buy a second vacation home so he's swearing off doctorhood. Probably for the best.
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I was hoping for misspellings. Charlote area Tea Partiers must have access to spell check.
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I'm unsure of the significance of the dead jester. Maybe she is saying that President Obama's feet smell bad?
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I'm still not sure what the connection is between socialism and Heath Ledger's take on the Joker.
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I think taking one of the most disrespectful moments in recent memory in politics as a catch phrase sums up the tea party movement nicely.
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This makes as much sense as tits on a desk lamp.
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Ah Reagan! If only our taxes were that high again!
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Thankfully her world doesn't exist.
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Tie dyed Jesus cross?
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This sign wins the prize for the scariest sign of the day. Could this possibly be the first civil war fought over allowing your poor neighbors access to health care?
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On the way to the event these two killed and ate two doctors and stole their clothes.
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Of course there were counter protesters. Antiprotesters? Obama supporters? The best part of the experience was when the two sides chanted USA! USA! USA! across the street to each other.
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I've seen this picture before. It's still offensive.
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Naturally I took a panorama of the crowd.
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Since I was in the area I swung by Carrowinds to check out the new Intimidator roller coaster. It is really, really big.
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Thursday, April 01, 2010