January 21, 2007

The big day is here, and it won’t be difficult to find the games everyone has been looking forward to today.

* Big-screen TV functioning – check.
* Housework all done – check.
* Rabbit areas done – check.
* Bills paid and checkbook balanced – check.
* Snacks and cold Sammies at the ready – check.

So who wins? It doesn’t matter what all the so-called “experts” and prognosticators say – the fact it, the teams making the fewest mistakes under pressure go to Miami. I’m terrible at predictions so I won’t bother, but it sure would be cool to see Rob’s Saints and my Pats in a dream match-up. Now THAT would make for some fun cross-blogging, eh?

Here’s hoping for the Saints and the Pats to meet in the Super Bowl, but no matter what happens, may the best teams win.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:39 | Comments (2)
January 20, 2007

The good folks at National Review Online’s Corner blog have been going round and about on the fertile (and near and dear to me) subject of prayer. It all started Wednesday with this Michael Novak post in response to a column by fellow conservative Heather McDonald in which she forcefully defends her athiesm and conservative principles. in it, Novak writes, in part:

…Second, if Heather “really” wanted to know [re: her comment on ‘the puzzling logic of petitionary prayer’], she would look up some good books on prayer, on which there are thousands.

She might also begin with a slow, meditative reading of the Book of Job, to see how little “moral worthiness” counts in the sufferings (or the relief thereof) that humans endure. God’s ways are his ways, not ours. Everything that happens —everything, good and bad — springs from his will. That is why the great classic prayer of all the prophets and saints, and of Jesus, as of Mary, is (in one form or another) “Thy will be done.” We petition, but we also bow before the inscutable will of God.

Which got Peter Robinson thinking about the nature of suffering, something I’ve also posted on in the past. Robinson himself writes:

I’m always a little taken aback when someone attacks religion because life can prove painful and unjust or because prayers often go unanswered, as if believers simply hadn’t noticed. Praying in Gethsemane, for example, Jesus himself offers a petition that goes unanswered, asking to be spared the bitter cup of crucifixion. Pain? Injustice? Take a look at the Church calendar. The day after Christmas? The feast of St. Stephen, a blameless man executed by stoning. Two days after that? The feast of the Holy Innocents, the infant males whom Herod had slaughtered.

Which, in turn, inspired John Derbyshire to submit this interesting post on Leonhard Euler, considered ‘one of the greatest mathematicians of all time’. Here’s an excerpt from his quote by Euler on the subject of prayer:

“…When, therefore, a man addresses God a prayer worthy of being heard it must not be imagined that such a prayer came not to the knowledge of God till the moment it was formed. That prayer was already heard from all eternity; and if the Father of Mercies deemed it worthy of being answered, he arranged the world expressly in favor of that prayer, so that the accomplishment should be a consequence of the natural course of events. It is thus that God answers the prayers of men without working a miracle.”

Upon which, Novak responded with this post, upon which he closes with this observation:

Under pressure, practically everyone prays. As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, he tried hard all his life to be a serious atheist, but even he felt himself breaking out in thanksgiving to God for certain beautiful days, certain stunning events. Of course, he then withdrew these “prayers,” but he quite recognized the naturalness of the impulse in himself. He wrote that being atheist is in practice much harder than many let on. One needs to stay on watch at every moment against little surrenders. The world so often seems “as if” there is a God.

If a committed atheist feels thus, what does one with a hard-won faith feel?

To which Iain Murray then trumped all the cards on the table, so to speak, with this post invoking the words of none other than that literary giant and renowned Christian apologist, C.S Lewis:

“Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate.

…It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God’s mind — that is, His overall purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.”

Murray then closes with a remark I entirely disagree with:

[Lewis] also points out that prayer is a request – it may, or may not, be granted. That simple realization immediately invalidates all the “medical” studies into the efficacy of prayer, which are junk science whatever result they come up with.

Whether or not the efficacy of prayer, proven or unproven, is, in fact, ‘junk science’ or not, to me has never been at the root of what prayer, even petitioning prayer, is all about. Murray might also be aware of Lewis’ quote that “we pray to know we’re not alone” – one of the most powerful arguments for prayer I’ve ever heard. If all prayer ended up being was an act undertaken purely as a means to get something, we reduce God’s nature to nothing other than some kind of distant loan officer who either approves or rejects your application.

Does prayer work? In the end, it all depends on what the weaning of ‘work’ is? If prayer is, as I believe it is, actions and words that reflect the existence of a Creator, something greater than us, and succeeds in helping us recognize and realize that we are all in need of God’s love and mercy, than yes, prayer works. Does God answer prayers? I believe the answer is yes, but, like Henry Travers’ Clarence to Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, not necessarily in the way they are intended.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:23 | Comments (0)
January 19, 2007

mondo Got a case of the mid-winter blahs? Nothing to do next weekend? Feel like heading to Las Vegas? Interested in what they call “mid-century modern” lifestyle, architecture, and pop culture? Well, if you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, have I got an exotic event for you! It’s the “Mondo Lounge Atomic Frolic”, scheduled for January 26-28 in equally-exotic Las Vegas. What exactly is this, you might well ask? From the “official” website:

Mondo Lounge Atomic Frolic is the Ultimate Retro Party and Conference. The event is themed around the lifestyle and culture of America from 1957 to 1963 & will bring together fans of Retro Fashion, Tiki, Exotica Music, Car Culture, Bachelor Pad Living, Pin-Ups, Swing Scene, Vintage Las Vegas Rat Pack era.

Man oh man, if I wasn’t heading to Vegas with the Goodboys in just three weeks, I’d be there in a New York minute. Looking through the schedule of events, I can’t decide which would be my favorite – the musical entertainment, which looks positively boss, the “Friday Night Pajama Party”, where guests are encouraged to “wear your best footsie pj’s, smoking jackets, bunny slippers, or flannel nighties” (OK, that sounds like a reach), or the – this sounds so fab – the “Exotica Jam Session”, where guests are enouraged to “bring your exotica instruments and jam with: Bongos, bird whistles, guiros, congas, triangles, shakers, quickas, wood blocks, vibraslap, flexatones, marraccas, finger cymbells, cowbells, agogo bells, etc.” Heck all you need is some vibes and baby, you’re cookin’!

And I would just have to insist on being a judge for the “Miss Mondo Atomic” contest!

Think I might be able to roust myself up a boat drink or two there?

(Hat tip: Lotta Living)

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:50 | Comments (0)
January 18, 2007

Have you checked out The Weather Channel‘s so-called “climate expert”, Dr. Heidi Cullen? The first time I saw a promo for her new weekly show, “The Climate Code” (hah, I get it – like “The Da Vinci Code”, right? What a knee-slapper!), I could tell she was a lightweight. Definitely not in the same league as Jim Cantore or Mark Mancuso, and DEFINITELY not in the same universe as my favorite, Dave Schwartz, to be sure.

A couple of disclaimers are in order first:

1. Having known more than a few in my life, Ph.Ds by nature don’t impress me. I know, I know – to get one’s doctorate is no small feat; it requires an incredible amount of dedication, research, and hard work, and I respect that. But being a Ph.D in and of itself does NOT automatically qualify one as an expert in anything other than how they were able to successfully accomplish their dissertation. Like my old friend Jack Lyon, long-time professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell was wont to say, there’s a big difference between book sense and horse sense.

2. Can we all agree that: a) global climate change is a serious-enough issue, with major implications for humankind and the resources it needs to sustain life, that warrants both serious consideration and extensive research, but b) regardless of what the ‘Chicken Littles’ in the mainstream dino-media might tell you, there is no consensus among scientists and so-called “experts” as to what effect humans have on climate change and global warming? I hope so.

(BTW, I find it difficult to be posting anything about global warming as I watch my backyard cactuses slowly turn from green to brown after last weekend’s hard freeze, where it got down to 26 degrees Saturday night.)

Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah. Seems that Dr. Cullen is calling for de-certification of any member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) who doesn’t fall lock-and-step into the whole global warming hysteria. Matt Drudge has a link to a post by Marc Morano of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, reporting that, on her December 21st Weather Channel weblog entry, Dr. Cullen calls for the AMS to revoke its so-called “Seal of Approval” for any television weatherman who ‘expresses skepticism that human activity is creating a climate catastrophe’. Morano quotes Dr. Cullen’s blog as saying, among other things:

“If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn’t agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns.”

Now before you start worrying that your favorite local weather forecaster might soon find themselves working behind the counter at the local Arby’s preparing roast beef sandwiches, consider that this is the same so-called “expert” who, in the same blog entry, also writes:

“It’s like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather. It’s not a political statement…it’s just an incorrect statement.”

Umm…paging Dr. Cullen: as Morano rightly points out, tropical systems in the Southern Hemisphere – you know, below the equator? – actually do rotate clockwise.

I recommend reading Morano’s merciless fisking of Cullen’s obviously extreme views on climate change. It’s a no-contest and a fun read. Rather than buying into the all-too-typical global warming hysteria we so often get from so-called “experts” like Dr. Cullen and Al Gore, it might be a good idea if everyone takes a deep breath and understand the complexity of this issue before trading in that SUV for a horse-and-buggy. After all, there are also studies out there like this one, which, after studying climate change from a more historic perspective, proposes that the only thing constant about the world’s climate is its innate historical instability and erratic behavior.

A much better idea than to propose stripping people of their livelihoods simply because they aren’t as quick to buy into your global warming/climate change hysteria, dontcha think, Dr. Cullen?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:00 | Comments (0)
January 17, 2007

It’s been a pretty interesting New Year thus far (at least technology-wise) around the ol’ Gilbert hacienda. Here, we’ve finally cast aside the last vestiges of 20th century technology and plunged head-first – for better or for worse – into the 21st century. (Meaning, of course, that within 1-2 years, this post will look as if it were some sad remnant left over from the Dark Ages.)

The first to go was our traditional dial-up setup. My blogging responsibilities kinda motivated that change, as I was getting weary of navigating the web via 50K speeds over a dial-up line. My first choice for DSL provider was AT&T, as we’ve been AT&T Worldnet customers for years, and this weblog uses my AT&T personal web pages as a repository for the ‘Goodboys Only’ section content. Unfortunately, AT&T’s DSL reach doesn’t extend to the 85233 zip code, so we were forced to go with our local provider, Cox. Fortunately, the smart guys at AT&T in their wisdom offer a reduced service ($5.95/month) for those who are forced or choose to go DSL with another service provider but wish to retain their e-mail accounts and personal web pages (nice!). So that worked out well, and I only have good things to say about the super-duper speed and reliability of our Cox DSL service.

The next development was the need to provide the same high-speed connectivity to a second device – in this case, my work laptop. This was motivated by the unforeseen news that, as I mentioned the other day, I was soon to be working full-time from my home. Surprisingly enough, it all went pretty smoothly: a call to Cox technical support and a friendly chat with a knowledgeable resource there (surprise!) revealed that I didn’t need a second physical line; I could make do with a wireless router at no extra charge per month. A conversation with my boss led me to the local Office Max, where for $49 smackers I purchased a Linksys 4.2 GHz wireless router, which, after 1 1/2 hours of trying to decipher the directions and ten minutes of actual installation (!) led to a successful test.

Quick note: What was interesting (and remains perplexing to me) was that on the first day of operation, we were getting numerous outages (sometimes 2-3 an hour) that required us to unplug and plug back in the router to get things going again; then, starting the second day and since, the setup has worked virtually flawlessly. Hmm…

I wish I could say the rest of this post is as pleasurable an experience to write about as it has been thus far, but alas, such is not the case. And I place all the blame squarely on Microsoft and its damned Internet Explorer 7 browser.

I first discovered the ‘joys’ of IE7 after foolishly loading it on my parents’ computer during a weekend visit last month. Sure, the install went fine, but, as I soon discovered, IE7 has its own mind when it comes to security and displaying web content. The first thing I discovered was all this tabbing that IE7 provided (so you don’t have to open multiple IE windows when doing multiple web-browsing). To me, this was never a big deal, but evidently Microsoft thought so. And, typical of Microsoft, they also made the toolbars more confusing and cumbersome to use – something my parents definitely didn’t need.

But what really threw me for a loop was when I checked out this humble website to see if there were any presentation changes with IE7, and boy, was I in for a shock: the text fonts, sizes, and formatting were all screwed up. Welcome to ‘IE7 compatibility’. Fortunately, the good folks at Blogs-About Hosting were over it like white on rice. So, for a mere $50, you are now looking at a website 100% fully IE7 compatible. Thanks, Microsoft.

The other thing that bugs me about IE7 is its security handling and finding out that several websites I visit on occasion (no, they’re NOT porn! :-)) show up as having these things called ‘invalid certificates’. For example, my friend Jerome’s site had been unavailable to me for weeks, suddenly, in the last day or two, it’s now perfectly accessible for some reason. All I can say is, if you’re going to download IE7, I recommend not selecting their special text option, ditching the stupid tabs feature, and reformatting your toolbar. Maybe others feel differently from me re: IE7 – that’s OK – but I’m not sold on it at all.

A quick housekeeping note, re: the Blogroll. I’ve added the following websites:

* Betsy Newmark has a fine blog – why I didn’t add her originally is truly a puzzle, as I’ve enjoyed her writing for some time.

* And two cool sites for all you cats and chicks out there: Alfred Shaheen (a post is planned for later this week), and Lotta Living, another website I’ve become quite fond of. It specializes in “Mid Century Modern Lifestyle, Design, Art, Furniture and Architecture” (more on that somewhere down the line as well).

All are worth a peek or two.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comment (1)
January 16, 2007

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:5-7

“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation, by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her, to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.”

– “The Church’s One Foundation”, Hymn 525, The Hymnal 1982

——

For anyone wondering why The Episcopal Church is hemorrhaging membership, losing priests, parishioners, and whole congregations to other orthodox denominations, and spending more time in courts trying to keep congregations from taking their buildings with them than spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one need only look at the recent words of the Rt. Reverend Katharine Jefforts Schori, the church’s own Presiding Bishop, when it comes to answering the seemingly innocuous, yet fundamental, question: is Jesus Christ “the way, the truth, and the life”?

One would think that, as both a Christian and the head of one of Christendom’s mainline Protestant churches, that would be a rather easy and straightforward question for someone of her office to answer. But no, the hemming and hawing she responds with contains enough nuance to make anyone wonder if, in fact, there’s anything she truly believes. David Virtue provides the details (my boldings):

In Arkansas last week Mrs. Schori had this to say at her first consecration about whether she could “affirm” Jesus’ statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” She does so with caveats.

Here is what she said: “I certainly don’t disagree with that statement that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. But the way it’s used is as a truth serum, or a touchstone: If you cannot repeat this statement, then you’re not a faithful Christian or person of faith. I think Jesus as way – that’s certainly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. It means to be in search of relationship with God. We understand Jesus as truth in the sense of being the wholeness of human expression. What does it mean to be wholly and fully and completely a human being? Jesus as life, again, an example of abundant life. We understand him as bringer of abundant life but also as exemplar. What does it mean to be both fully human and fully divine? Here we have the evidence in human form. So I’m impatient with the narrow understanding, but certainly welcoming of the broader understanding.”

Asked about the rest of Christ’s declaration: “No man cometh unto to the father but by me,” Jefferts Schori continued. “Again in its narrow construction, it tends to eliminate other possibilities. In its broader construction, yes, human beings come to relationship with God largely through their experience of holiness in other human beings. Through seeing God at work in other people’s lives. In that sense, yes, I will affirm that statement. But not in the narrow sense, that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus,” she said.

Ahem. Go back to Sunday School, Ms. Schori. If it were one of my Goodboys friends or some college academic trying to explain that Gospel passage, I could understand, but as the esteemed leader of The Episcopal Church, the (currently, though perhaps not for long) sole Anglican province in the U.S., that’s a pretty poor and pathetic answer to what should be a no-brainer.

Let’s break it down, shall we? First of all, for Jesus to be ‘your way’ does not make you someone ‘on a spiritual journey’ (whatever that means), it makes you a Christian – ya know, like when you promise to ‘follow and obey Him as your Lord’ when you or someone you’re witnessing is baptized. You remember that, don’t you, Bishop Schori? And all this dopey, nuanced ‘I’m impatient with that’, ‘narrow understanding’, ‘narrow construction’ nonsense – have you not read the Lord’s own words from the Gospel of Luke:

“Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Luke 13: 23-24

So basically, what you’re saying is that you’re ‘impatient’ with Jesus’ own sentiments (if not words), and ‘do not affirm’ them in their context either, eh? Well, aren’t those fine sentiments for the head of a mainline Protestant Church, a church whose own Catechism teaches that the truths taught by the Holy Spirit are ‘those when they are in accord with the Scriptures’ (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 853)!

This, unfortunately, is the usual clap-trap I’ve come to expect from people like Ms. Schori and the supposed ‘leaders’ of our Church. They’re so afraid to offend anyone that they don’t even have the courage to state what their own faith believes! I find that both astounding and depressing. You see, there’s nothing wrong with affirming the faith of one’s religion; to have confidence in the beliefs and teachings upon which your Church and your personal faith is built upon is not condemning anyone – in fact, just doing so in a quiet and confident, not boastful or mean-spirited, way is one way to draw people towards your religion and to build up your church.

To me, this kind of question has never been a particularly difficult one to answer, and you don’t have to denigrate other peoples’ religions or spirituality by answering it honestly, in your own way. Here’s the way I look at it: say I need to go from Phoenix to Denver. Look at all the ways there are of getting there – you can travel by foot, car, bus, bicycle, train, hand-glider, and plane, among others. And there are a variety of tools I can use to help point me in the right direction, as well. There are maps, compasses, GPS, directions from strangers, the Internet – again, any number of methods at my disposal.

As a Christian, if my ultimate goal and hope is eternal life in heaven (whatever that might mean to me or to anyone), I believe Jesus Christ is the surest way; I think of it as like going directly to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, walking up to the nearest ticket counter, and buying a one-way ticket to, say, Denver. Unless, say, the plane crashes en route, the chances are overwhelming that, if I do all the right things (drive carefully, bring money, find the right airline, etc.), I’m gonna get to Denver that day. Does that mean, however, that my plane trip is the only way to get to Denver? Of course not. As I mentioned above, there are a myriad of ways I could try and get there, but again, as a Christian, I believe these other ways, while perfectly acceptable to some (perhaps even most), contain more inherent risks that can lead one astray and, perhaps far from Denver (both practically and figuratively).

Now well-intentioned and good-reasoned people can agree or disagree with me. And that’s fine – I personally have friends from a number of different faiths, and some who are agnostics, if not down-right athiests. When the occasion arises, I might try to talk up my faith and my beliefs, but I don’t go ’round condemning them just because their belief system is different than mine. But – and this is the important thing – they know I have a faith and belief system, and that my life and my values evolve from that. You see, I’m not ashamed of the Gospel and my Christian beliefs, and am not afraid to defend them either. And the same should hold true for Ms. Schori – especially given her position and role in The Episcopal Church. But she’s either too afraid to let her true faith and beliefs be seen by anyone for fear of offending someone, or worse, she’s simply expressing her honest, heartfelt belief. And if, in fact, that’s the case, the Church she heads will only continue to reap what it has sown.

—-

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith: as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’.” Romans 1:16-17

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments (0)
January 15, 2007

The weather patterns are changing, and it appears the good folk in the Northeast who have been, at least up to now, spared the usual mix of snow and cold that comes with winter are about to find out their luck has run out. Which, I think, is a good thing. January is a winter month after all, and how can someone miss the four seasons living here in Arizona if all your family and friends are out golfing on the Cape, or going out in shirtsleeves to watch the NFL playoffs at the local pub or your friend’s house?

It’s just as well. Yesterday we didn’t get out of the 40s here in the metro Phoenix area, and the locals were absolutely freaking out the freeze warnings out for last night and tonight. Me, I kind of liked it – a number of different kinds of trees in these parts have gone bare, the wind had a genuine nip to it, and the sky was gray with clouds all day. It really felt like a fall day to me – football weather to be sure. A nice change – unless, that is, you’re the once beautiful flora and fauna in our front and back yards that really got zonked by last night’s freeze.

Of course, when it’s cold and stormy back East, that means out here in the West, moderating temperatures and a return to some sun and warmth – both of which have been in short supply the past month and a half. I’m sure the folks in the Northwest and California will appreciate the change in both the weather pattern and the storm track that follows it. In the Northeast, it’ll be time to put those golf clubs away and get your snow shovels at the ready.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:54 | Comments (0)
January 14, 2007

For the first time in my professional life, I am working from home. Permanently. (Or, should I say, as permanently as anyone’s hold on their job and position can be considered ‘permanent’ in this day and age.

How this came about is a testimony to that time-honored sentiment, wondering how on earth any company these days ever stays in business or is successful given the business acumen it often displays when it comes to handling its own business in-house. In my case, my company chose to “right-size” its business office in Phoenix to reduce real estate costs. All well and good there – why pay rent on office space you no longer need? However, as is the case with any kind of information gathering, the old GIGO (‘garbage in, garbage out’) rule applies, and in this case, they didn’t have a good handle on the number of people who actually worked at the office full-time vs. those who didn’t. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a number of us who used the office full-time discovered there was, as they say, ‘no room at the inn’, and that suddenly we would now be full-time workers from our own homes.

It’s a good thing, then, that we had room to spare in our house – in fact, two bedrooms reserved for guests, either of which that, with not a lot of work, could be converted into office space. The larger of these rooms, complete with day bed, dresser, and TV (with Dish Network programming, no less) seemed the obvious choice to stay as is. The smaller one, east-facing and brightly-painted, with some bookcases, roll-top desk, and my prayer table, became the obvious choice. Since, however, it had also been used for storage in the three years we’ve been here, I was allowed to practice my own minimalist tendencies and throw a lot of crap out to create for myself a genuine work space.

So, after a visit to Staples and Office Max, in came a computer desk and white-board, up went some curtains (to create a sense of order and decor), a Linksys wireless router for high-speed Internet to my laptop, and voila! – instant office.

In the three weeks since I started this work-from-home gig, I’ve discovered both advantages and disadvantages (dangers, really) to my new home office situation. The advantages are obvious: no morning and evening commutes, therefore less wear and tear on our second car. And, the fact that I have Dish Network TV across the hallway means I can take advantage of the SIRIUS satellite radio and other music channels included in our programming for background music – so far, the Gumbo (New Orleans dixieland, jazz, zydeco, and ragtime), Tropical Breezes (Caribbean) and Hawaiian music channels are favorites. And, the buns in our ‘personal office’ next door also seem to appreciate having company during the day.

As hard to believe as it might seem, though, there are also some distinct disadvantages of having a home office – and believe me, this is where discipline comes into play. Proximity to work is the primary lure here. When you work in an office and it’s time to go home, you’re gone, and that’s it until the next day. Having a home office means work is never more than a few steps away, and sometimes it’s hard to resist going in and logging on to see what’s going on beyond the walls. And that’s something I’m still getting used to – working your day, then calling it a night. Building routines, like putting music on to indicate the start of my work day, and shutting it off when my work day is through, I find, helps a lot.

The other thing I miss is exercise. I still need to work on finding a replacement for those flights of steps I used to walk up and down to and from my 3rd floor office. Perhaps a walk around the neighborhood during the day, or, when the pool warms up sufficiently, a swim to help clear the head and break the day up is something worth checking into.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:26 | Comments (2)
January 13, 2007

wie2 How about that teenager making the cut at the PGA’s Sony Open? No, it wasn’t the over-hyped, under-performing Michelle Wie, either, but Tadd Fujikawa. The kid simply played marvelous down the stretch, and, unlike the excuse-making, prima donna Wie has turned into, Fujikawa’s round was played with all the joy and wonder any of us who have ever played the rounds of our life can relate to.

I’m hoping, though not certain, that this may be the beginning of the end of the whole media fascination with Wie, who while once understandably intriguing, is now bordering on has-been in the face of increasingly poor play, poor advice, and, as I’ve predicted, increased media scrutiny and the start of a backlash.

The sad truth is – as even The Golf Channel talking heads are finally starting to admit themselves – the bloom is finally off the rose. The fact is, as much as Americans love attractive and exciting success stories who come from out of nowhere, they’re more than willing to toss that same person overboard when they fail to live up to their original hype. Unfortunately, that’s the spot Wie finds herself in today. Her game (especially off the tee this week) has more holes than a Adam Sandler movie screenplay, and she’s begun to exhibit an annoying habit of always having some kind of excuse why she didn’t play well (this week it was a sore right wrist), and rejecting outright the obvious facts that: a) with the kind of scores she’s shooting (78-76 this week) she doesn’t belong out there, and b) she’s taking a potential payday from a male player who would stand a far better chance of not only making a cut, but finishing in the money and putting food on his family’s table as well – something, BTW, Wie has little to worry about. Ranked #6 in the world in endorsements (if you can believe that), and preparing to go to college at Stanford this fall, Wie ain’t hurting for money. It’s plain ego that’s at work here, and her “I don’t care what the world thinks or how badly my golf game $uck$, I’m gonna do whatver I want and to hell with everyone else” attitude has finally started to show her for the talented, but misguided teen she has come to be.

Well congratulations, Michelle – last year you were still a curiosity; this year you’re in grave danger of imploding your career by overexposure and lack of success. Face it, you have no business out on there on the men’s tour unless you can say you have no challenges or goals left to achieve on the womens’ tour. But you can’t say that, because you have yet to even win a ladies’ tournament yet. Do yourself, and everyone else, a favor. Disappear for awhile until you can play regularly and prove you can beat the ladies on a regular basis, then if you still want to make a go of it with the fellas, then do so. If not, you’ll simply be seen as a once fresh and beautiful talent who became, seemingly overnight, a stubborn, egomaniacal, overrated, and over-exposed spoiled brat.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 10:53 | Comments (0)
January 12, 2007

Fine art is something I have always struggled with. You see, I’m the one that, whether watching those art auction shows on cable TV, or attending the auctions they typically have on board cruise ships, is always attracted to the dopey stuff ordinary folk can relate to – you know, peaceful deer in the woods, horses at full gallop, or a room or hallway in delicate pastels. I know it all comes down to personal taste, but the impressionist stuff – distorted people with eyes like flying saucers, or – you know the kind – that $15K thing that looks like someone tossed three cans of paint on a canvas, then played Twister with a gigantic spider, is kinda like the fine art equivalent of John Coltrane‘s music to me. It may be significant, but I just can’t get into it.

Nevertheless, it was with a laugh I read this story about Steve Wynn, the guy responsible for modern-day Las Vegas, the guy who took a foundering Golden Nugget casino and, with the help of Michael Miliken and his junk bonds, paved the way to 21st century Las Vegas by building The Mirage, Treasure Island (now “TI”) and the Bellagio before cashing out and building the magnificent Wynn Hotel and Casino, actually damaged a real bonafide priceless Picasso (“Le Reve”) by accidentally poking a hole in the canvass with his elbow!:

Casino mogul Steve Wynn sued Lloyd’s of London Thursday, saying the insurance company failed to act properly on his demands to pay $54 million in lost value for a Picasso that was damaged when Wynn accidentally poked a hole in the canvas with his elbow.

In 1997, Wynn paid $48.4 million for the painting depicting Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter.

Wynn has described the damage to the canvas as a thumb-sized flap and said it was “the world’s clumsiest and goofiest thing to do.”

He damaged the canvas as he showed it to guests, including screenwriter Nora Ephron and husband Nick Pileggi, broadcaster Barbara Walters, New York socialite Louise Grunwald, lawyer David Boies and his wife, Mary, and art dealer Serge Sorokko and his wife, Tatiana.

“The blood drained out of their faces,” Wynn said. “I just turned around and said, ‘Oh, my God. How could I have done this?'”

You see, this is EXACTLY why I try to steer clear of expensive stores and art galleries in general. Sure, what Wynn did was an accident, but it’s accidents like that that The Great White Shank is perfectly capable of doing on any given day and at any given time, whether it be tripping over my feet and causing my drink to fly into some magnificent Van Gogh, or losing my balance and sending that crystal display at Nieman-Marcus crashing to the floor.

I can’t even begin to imagine how awful Wynn must have felt when the Picasso accident happened. It’s just nice to know that even the wealthiest of tycoons in the world can still doing things and be as clumsy as paupers like you and me.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:55 | Comments (0)

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