April 17, 2010

…about the Red Sox so far this year. Sure, I didn’t believe they would be as good as all the prognosticators believed, but even I have to admit – they suck. So bad that I’m not even sure I’m going to waste my hard-earned dollars on DirecTV’s Extra Innings package so I can watch them suck as the 2010 season unfolds. Here are my problems with the Beantown Nine, in no specific order:

1. Manny Delcarmen. I’m trying to figure out what kind of stuff this guy still has that warrants a place on the major league roster. I don’t know if the guy’s hurt or not, but I do know he stinks.

2. David Ortiz. No one loves what Big Papi has meant to this team over the years more than The Great White Shank does, but he has a slower bat than anyone I can remember. I’m tellin’ ya, he’s done.

3. Tim Wakefield. I know this goes completely against conventional wisdom here, but if I’m Red Sox management I tell Tim ‘thanks for everything, we want you as a member of our organization, just not as a pitcher’. Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka are this team’s future (for better or for worse), and Wake is just standing in the way.

4. Mike Lowell. Enough, already. The Sox don’t want him, he feels he should be starting, and there’s no in-between. I say, release Lowell, eat the $, and promise you’ll never again put yourself in this kind of position again.

5. Victor Martinez. Can we all agree he’s not a full-time catcher? Make him a most-times DH and sometimes catcher, put Jason Varitek back in the catcher role for 3-4 out of every five games, and admit you have a major catching situation for 2011.

It is becoming clearer by the day that this team is in an awkward place, for a number of reasons – thanks, Theo. With that in mind, it might be worthwhile after the All-Star break to bring up some of the highly-touted minor leaguers and chalk this year up as a work in progress. I see nothing here that makes me think this team can compete with the Yankees and Rays, I’m for cutting my losses and see what I can get out of this year with an eye towards the future.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:04 | Comments Off on Feelin’ Blue
April 16, 2010

On a warm Friday night like this when there’s not a breath of wind in the air it never ceases to amaze me how one can be surrounded by houses on every side and not hear a thing. Oh, occasionally you’ll hear a murmur of conversation accompanied by laughter and a splash of water from next door (our new neighbors are using their pool forthe first time this year), or, in the distance, the soft sounds of a game being played on the baseball fields down the road apiece, but that’s it.

And it’s not as if we live in one of those subdivisions where everyone has left their homes abandoned, either – all the houses around us are occupied. You wantto say that it must be the magic of those 6- and 8-foot cement walls we all have around us, but that’s not true: it wouldn’t be any effort to lob one of the lemons from our side yard trees underhanded and have them land in any one of four swimming pools around us. I guess our neighbors are just not outdoor people.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you – we cherish the quiet and don’t take it for granted for a minute: just one street down the neighbors are continually complaining about the noise from two houses where the renters blast music at all hours of the night. The HOA is in the middle of evicting them, but the process has become hell for everyone involved.

So I’ll just sit back with my glass of Pinot Grigio, bathed in the soft, happy pineapple lights of the patio, and think how lucky we are to just have this quiet night to decompress from a long, crazy week.

Here’s a perfect video to match the mellow nature of this night. My favorite surf song of all time, performed by my favorite surf band of all time.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:56 | Comments Off on In The Still Of The Night
April 15, 2010

The house was a jumble of activity today, as slowly the end of our so-called “suburban renewal” is coming into sight. The master bath is still a mess, but all the tile is up and waiting to be grouted tomorrow. The new stove and refrigerator came today, and next Thursday the refinished “big kahuna” office desk and credenza will be delivered (meaning I’ll be able to get my office back), and the plumber will be here to install the new bathroom hardware. After that, there’s just some minor tile work left (less than a day’s worth) and then it’s finito! At least we hope…

Taxes have been paid – well, our estimated taxes, at least – as Tracey hustled down to the post office 10 minutes before it closed to deliver our extension request forms and personal checks for the feds and the state. When will they actually get done? A lot depends on how well our PC rises from the dead.

Which brings me to the damned PC.

About two hours ago, I was actually pretty hopeful. Tracey had dedicated the morning to downloading Internet Explorer 8, Windows Media Player 11, and every freakin’ driver she could find from Dell support that met our PCs requirements. She doesn’t know how she did it, but our wavy, screen painting internet issue got resolved, and after she installed Outlook Express, we actually got two weeks of e-mail downloaded. So far, so good.

Tonight I was tasked with installing more software from various executables and disks we had laying around all over the garage. Things were proceeding rather nicely. Then, just as I inserted the very last software disk needing to be installed (ironically, TurboTax 2009), the computer froze. I’ve checked the cables and the mouse batteries, and those appear to be OK, but somehow we’re at some point that Windows doesn’t like. I saw the words “Keyboard failure” during the boot, so maybe our wireless thingumybob that supports our wireless keyboard and mouse is malfunctioning – who knows? Either way, I believe tomorrow will be perhaps the most critical day of this PC’s life, as right now it’s on a shorter string than slumping David “Big Papi” Ortiz, if you know what I mean….

Oh, BTW, we hit 90 for the first time today. It won’t be the last. Looks like I’ll be taking my first dip in the pool this weekend. Surf’s up!

Pool temp: 74 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:53 | Comments (2)
April 14, 2010

Shhhh…. don’t tell anyone, but would you like a “sneak peek” at the golf courses I hear the Goodboys will be playing for their 20th anniversary weekend this coming July? You would???? Well, let The Great White Shank be your informal tour guide…

sagamore

A little birdie tells me that Friday, July 16th sounds like a good day to limber up on a very accessible and wide-open Sagamore Hampton Golf Club. A humble, yet pretty course, not too long, and rather forgiving, I think most Goodboys will welcome the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and get to know their partners intimately (well, as intimately as you’d want to know your golf partner) on a course that won’t bite even the highest handicapper all too bad. After all, there will be plenty of chances for that to happen over the next two days, believe me! No need to go stupid right out of the box.

ledges

On Saturday the 17th (if all goes according to plan) the Goodboys will be paying a return visit to the beautiful and challenging The Ledges Golf Club just up the road apiece in York (we locals pronounce it “Yawk”) Maine. The ‘Boys played this picturesque, challenging, and hilly course on an absolute ten-bell, breezy, and dry Sunday last year; hopefully the golf gods will grace us with a repeat performance (at least weather-wise) this year. At The Ledges you have to play “wicked smaht” golf, but I don’t mind: after a couple of cold frosty Samuel Adams Summer Ales in their beautiful clubhouse to calm the jitters on what we call “moving day”, who cares? Just go out and play.

Then you have Sunday.

portsmouth

So how does one truly commemorate twenty years of Goodboys Invitationals after playing everything from scenic mountain courses in Vermont and New Hampshire to scrub pine-lined tracts on Cape Cod? Why, you select a crown jewel of a golf course the Goodboys have never played as a group before: my favorite course in all the world, the exquisitely grand Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland, NH.

portsmouth5

Winding its way along the shores of Great Bay, this majestic chestnut of a links course is everything and anything I’ve ever loved about a golf course. Wide open much of the time but excuciatingly long, with rocket-fast, well-maintained greens, it’s a thinking man’s course that (as you might well expect, given the author), while never treating The Great White Shank very well over the years, has never failed to intimidate, excite, and entice. I love it.

I can honestly say that, on those occasional nights when sleep doesn’t come easily, thinking about times long past playing Portsmouth Country Club on a warm late-summer day with good friends (both current and departed) always quiets my mind and soothes the soul. Warm breezes, the purple loosestrife ablaze in the surrounding wetlands, the waters of Great Bay shimmering in the summer heat, the tankers lumbering overhead on their lazy approaches to the nearby Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth Country Club has its own unique shape, sounds, smells, and rhythm, and I can’t wait to play it with all my Goodboys friends.

Three days.

Three fine courses.

Back home in New England, along the sea.

Only three months to go, fellas…

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 18:16 | Comment (1)
April 13, 2010

abomb Want to learn something from The Great White Shank? When a Dell technical advisor tells you that reconfiguring your PC’s mirrored disk array will reformat your hard drive, take his word for it.

It’s Day 2 of “let’s rebuild The Great White Shank’s PC from scratch” effort, and I have to tell you, our once-formidable, top of the line XPS 400 PC has seen better days. Oh, the guys from Geek Squad did a great job recovering all of our personal files – that’s not the problem. The problem is, never take for granted just how much software your computer already has on it when you unpack it at home for the first time. If you take a good, complete backup of your hard drive to start, you’re totally screwed if you ever have to rebuild it from scratch.

Me, I’m disappointed in Dell. Not as much as I am disappointed in us for not taking an initial backup and stashing it on a flash drive somewhere. They’ve been nice enough, but I would have thought they’d have a generic XPS system image available to be loaded by their customers for times like this. I mean, just imagine how much stuff you get out of the box and how much you take for granted that everything works great and everything’s, er, there.

Oh sure, I can boot my PC now. That’s a good start, right? Heck, I’ve even reloaded a bunch of applications – most importantly, Tracey’s Forty Thieves, meaning our PC can return to its prior, “most expensive solitaire machine on earth”, state of existence. I have the Internet, McAfee, our X Files desktop background, and a few other niceties.

But there are problems, and, I think, significant ones at that.

It was a bummer that my Microsoft Office 2003 copy from work no longer loads, meaning I’m out of luck and needing to find some other way of avoiding spending hundreds of dollars for a new Office Professional 2007 install kit. On the chance I might squeak by with a miracle, I called a co-worker who was our tech guru when we both worked out of the Phoenix office a few years ago:

Me: My home PC crashed and I can’t load Office 2003.

Him: Dude, that’s a bummer. What’s the message you’re getting?

Me: Er, CHR1904.CAB can’t be located, install cancelled.

Him (chuckling): Sweet. Try locating it in your c:I386 directory.

Me: I don’t have one anymore.

Him: That’s so intense. Dude, you’re screwed.

Of course, no Microsoft Office, no Microsoft Outlook. No Microsoft Outlook, no e-mail. And no e-mail for over two weeks, if (and I do mean if at this point) I ever get our e-mail set up again we’ll have hundreds, if not thousands, of them pouring in from friends and family members who can’t figure out why we’re avoiding them.

Well, we’re not. We’re just, er, indisposed.

Most troubling of all, however, is the fact that there’s something really funky going on when I scroll down an internet website’s page – the screen shudders and then rolls like a wave as the page scrolls. I’m afraid to even think what might be causing that….could be a bad video driver, a missing video driver, an incorrectly configured video drive, some memory config thing, God only knows.

It’s kind of sad, really. Our state of the art PC used to take over five minutes to boot with all the applications we had on it. Now it boots in 20 seconds. Doesn’t even seem worth it to click “Start” and “Shut down”; tonight I just punched the button.

So that’s my sad tale. I know in the grand scale of things it’snot that big a deal, but it’s still kind of disheartening. I don’t know where we’re gonna go from here. Frankly, I’m pessimistic I’ll ever get it back to where and what it once was. But that’s technology for ya.

Pool temp: 72 degrees!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:47 | Comments (5)
April 12, 2010

Today’s post will have to be a quick one because of work and my final RCIA class before I’m received into the Roman Catholic Church two weeks’ hence. I’ve linked to this fine article by Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest Online (Hat tip: Instapundit) about the precarious state of today’s Episcopal Church, something I hadn’t planned to blog about again, but in this case, I felt I needed to since Mead’s column ties in rather nicely with this post from two weeks ago.

A must read for Episcopalians everywhere.

Pool temp: 70 degrees!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 09:35 | Comments (2)
April 11, 2010

Kudos to Phil Mickelson for winning his third Masters championship. It was a great weekend of golf at Augusta National, with lots of fireworks on Saturday and Sunday, an ever-changing leaderboard, and a good mix of savvy veterans (Fred Couples) and up-and-comers (Anthony Kim and Nick Watney) to make it all quite entertaining.

If there was one thing that made this particular Masters memorable, it was the vast difference in the worlds (golf and otherwise) seemingly occupied by Mickelson and his chief rival, Tiger Woods, whose shot-making capabilities (particularly off the tee) and his on-course demeanor were equally erratic throughout the weekend.

On one hand you had Mickelson, the people’s choice, his “aw shucks” smile and demeanor readily accessible by a gallery who never failed to cheer him on, and in return, always receiving a smile, a tip of the cap, or a thumbs up in return for their appreciation.

On the other, you had Tiger, who, even while receiving lots of applause and welcome backs from the Augusta patrons, couldn’t keep up the happy, smiling persona past Thursday’s initial round. As the weekend went on, and his control over his game diminished, so did his control over his emotions. Poor shots resulted in one explosive outburst after another, and, from his surly responses to Peter Kostis’ post-round interview questions on Sunday, it seemed clear that Tiger still has some serious demons to deal with. So much for the so-called “new Tiger” his management team had been putting out for media consumption in the weeks leading up to his return to golf.

How could anyone not note the contrast between Tiger’s truly sad situation and Mickelson’s as we watched Phil and his wife Amy’s emotional embrace together, then with their children, to celebrate Phil’s victory. This being Amy’s first visit to a tournament since she was diagnosed with breast cancer over a year ago, only the most cold-hearted soul could not have been moved by the sight of a family finally being able to celebrate something together after a year of stress and anguish facing mortality straight in the face.

There’s such a thing as being a winner and someone who wins golf tournaments. In their own unique ways, and perhaps unknowingly, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods showed us the difference this weekend.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:30 | Comments (4)
April 10, 2010

It’s amazing, the kind of vivid dreams you have when you’ve got the flu and a 102 temperature. This morning, I woke up with a whole new plan for a truly unique business venture, complete with floor plans, marketing strategies, and a business model guaranteed not to fail. You ready for it?

A travel agency. Heh.

Just goes to show the extent to how sick I feel. But it got me to wondering over my morning coffee (which, while warm and soothing to my ravaged throat, could have been mixed with chlorine or fertilizer for all I know, since I can’t taste a thing): is there any industry that the Internet has changed the way it does business more in the last two decades than the travel industry?

I still remember fondly those early days of Tracey’s and my marriage when we’d be looking at honeymoon destinations, or, after that, our annual vacation plans, and working with my favorite Auntie Marge, who, with my Uncle Don, owned a small travel agency with my godfather Milt (God rest his soul). Back then, being a travel agent (even sounds exciting, doesn’t it?) was a lot of hard work on the telephone surrounded by pens, brochures, and writing pads – especially when dealing with demanding business clients who were always looking to get the best deals, even if there plans required them to be in Baltimore, Fargo, and Sacramento over the next three days and back in Boston by the 12th – you know what I mean.

But there was also, I think, something exciting and alluring about the travel business back then. After all, Auntie knew the names of all the airline, cruise, and hotel people whose keys opened the door to travel to far-off and exotic places you could, as a kid, only dream of ever visiting. And not just that, it was a time when people worked directly with people, making that essential human connection the world seems to not care so much about anymore. Whereas nowadays – take any plane flight anywhere and you’ll know what I’m talking about – people treat travel with the same formality as they would doing the dishes at home (and often dress that way, but that’s for another time), it wasn’t that long ago that travel, business or otherwise, was deemed something special and unique.

I still remember the excitement of booking travel with Auntie. Tracey and I would come in to the Liberty World Travel office, its walls splayed with colorful travel posters from faraway places (Rome! Paris! Mexico!), and she’d hand us some brochures and stuff for us to look at. Then, after tossing around some ideas and our decision made, we’d sit there holding hands and all goofy (I was a romantic back then) while Auntie would make the calls to get the deal done. You’d write a check for the down payment, and a few months later go back to pick up your itinerary and tickets, which Auntie had carefully prepared for us to make sure everything was in place.

Today? You sit at the computer, hit Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, Vacations To Go, or any number of travel sites, and, within an hour, you can have whatever your travel needs are signed, sealed, and delivered. Without ever talking to a single freakin’ human being. How quaint.

Up until a couple of years ago, the only remnant left of those exciting days of yesteryear was when we booked cruises (our preferred means of vacationing). Because you typically booked your cruise many months in advance, you would still have the thrill of finding in your mailbox a packet containing all your cruise documents for you to, all flush with excitement, go over with with your wife or significant other together over a cocktail. But even that’s now gone too. For our last cruise, we simply received an e-mail from Norwegian Cruise Lines directing us to their website where we downloaded and printed everything ourselves. How efficient.

Which was OK. Me, I knew things had already changed forever – and not for the better – well before that when (this was a couple of cruises ago), all dandied up for the second sitting and strolling to our table across the cruise ship’s glittering dining room, we saw some fat slob biker dude sitting at his table wearing a Harley Davidson cut off t-shirt. Me, I would have tossed him overboard for shark food at that very instant…

Without a doubt, technology not only has made vacationing a lot more convenient, but opened the doors to a lot of different options for travel even Auntie could never have imagined back in the LWT days. (Although, to her credit, she did find us that week-long wagon train/cattle drive vacation in Montana – and this was before “City Slickers” – that remains the highlight of all the vacations we have ever taken.) And I know things change and there’s no going back to the way things were done twenty years ago – not just in the travel industry, but with anything.

Whether that’s a good thing or not doesn’t matter – the only constant in this world is change, and if you don’t change along with those changes you either die, become a dinosaur, or turn to rust. (Me, I’m constantly in danger of all three.) But I cherish the memories of those days when pleasure traveling meant something – it was all about taste, class, and appreciation for the finer things in life. I’m glad to have been around long enough to remember those days, and believe those who don’t simply don’t know what they’ve missed.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 09:31 | Comments (2)
April 8, 2010

Let’s see now….

The house is back to its prior state of disarray now that the master bathroom has been torn apart. They say it’ll look beautiful, but right now it’s a disaster area.

Kitchen and bath fixtures are very expensive. I recommend spending money on them only once every 20 years or so.

Our PC is nothing but an elegant looking boat anchor since, as it turns out, our RAID disk array (this allows the mirroring of your dual hard drives, for all you non-PC folks out there) crashed two weeks ago.

Fortunately, the data on our hard drive wasn’t lost.

Unfortunately, to re-configure the disk array you need to copy your critical data to an external source since the drives will be reformatted as part of the process.

Double unfortunately, we’ve lost the OS install disk that came with the PC, meaning Dell has to send us a new set, arriving in 2-3 business days.

Triple unfortunately, 2-3 business days leaves us 2 business days until April 15. Looks like the taxes are going to be delayed….

And to top it all off, I’m sick. Seems like two days after any plane flight I’m on I come down with something. This one has hit really hard.

Oh sure, things can be worse. Hell, things can be a whole helluva lot worse.

But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice to have things back to good ol’ boring status quo – a happy and healthy Great White Shank tapping away at the keyboard on his equally happy and healthy home PC, the house around him in perfect order, everything in its place, no dust, no walls with whole in them, no garage filled with stuff that normally doesn’t belong there.

Someday it’ll happen (God willing).

It’s just not now.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:56 | Comments (3)
April 6, 2010

Heard Tiger Woods’ press conference today on the radio, and as much as I want to believe this whole “Repentence Tour” is nothing more than a highly and rigidly-planned PR campaign to get him back in the good graces of his public, I do believe we’re seeing a chastened Tiger who understands the consequences of his behavior and truly wants people to believe him.

Me, I dunno. This I do know: it sounds as if Tiger has had a lot more physical ailments in his knees and legs than just that torn ACL a couple of years ago, and it will be interesting to see how he holds up physically as he gets into his later ’30s and ’40s. Golf is an incredibly strenuous game and very hard on the legs and knees; I wonder how, in this day and age of superbly-trained athletes and technically-perfect swings and technology, just how Tiger’s body will hold up as time goes on.

It is also a mentally strenuous sport, and what Tiger has gone through has to have had an impact on him. Will he be able to completely separate his personal situation from his profession? We’ll see. But I’ll tell you this, if he were to defy all odds and win the Masters this year, it will be one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of golf.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:52 | Comments Off on Tiger’s Back

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