December 31, 2012

What to say about 2012? I dunno – I guess like any year it had its blessings and its curses. As the years go by I find it ever harder to distinguish one year from the next anymore. You end the year on the “green side of the sod” (as my grandfather used to say), it must have been good; otherwise, it wasn’t so good, was it?

While there are some nice memories that 2012 will always have – The Beach Boys’ new album and seeing their 50th anniversary concert tour during our weekend in Vegas probably tops the list, followed by the switch from Cobra golf clubs to Callaway after two pleasant visits to Las Vegas come to mind. Bottom line is, we here at The Great White Shank’s postage stamp of a hacienda came through this year in good health and fully employed (something not everyone can say, for sure). Of course, on the other side of the ledger we lost another rabbit, making it five straight years of losing a furry member of our family. Gosh, that’s a streak I wouldn’t mind breaking in 2013…

I don’t know what you can say about years turning over anymore. All one can do is hope for the best and cope with the rest, control what you have control over and deal with what you can’t. It’s important to cherish the small things: the sound of rain falling in the swimming pool (as it is now), the sound of palm tree branches rustling in the breeze, a hot cup of coffee on the patio in the morning, a little nitecap under cool moonlight when the rest of the world seems asleep, the ear for music my parents gave me, rescuing helpless bugs out of the swimming pool when I’m able to, having the luxury of whacking a few golf balls out in the fresh air, being able to use the bathroom every morning without someone (or something) to assist. I mean, I get it – I’ve never taken for granted the stuff most people do. Good health, a job, food on the table, clean water to drink, a circle of loving friends and family. It means the world to me. I don’t know what that makes me, exactly, but I’m not going to worry about it. At least not much.

Attitude is everything, I suppose, and Michael at TheEconomicCollapse blog is right when he writes that, no matter how dour things might look and portend:

Things may be falling apart all around us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a great year even in the midst of all the chaos.

Indeed.

Finally, before I call it another year, I would like to say to all who continue to make Goodboys Nation weblog a part of your daily Internet surfing experience, a big “thank you!” for your patronage and comments. Like I said this same day a year ago, I have a feeling the next year is going to be a rough sled, but hopefully I’ll be here to tell it all as I see it. Maybe a year from now we can all look back and say, “there, there, Great White Shank, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” One can only hope. To all of you and your families, my best wishes and prayers for the happiest and healthiest of New Years.

OK, enough. As is custom every year at this time we say, take us outta here, George!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:45 | Comments (3)
December 30, 2012

…for 2012, at least. A few fun and interesting links on a day when it turned out to be too cloudy and cool to take the new clubs out for a spin:

In light of last week’s eagle stealing baby YouTube video that went viral before being revealed as a hoax, Hot Air’s Mary Katharine Ham has nine scary bird attacks that really happened.

If it’s the end of the year it must be nearly time for The Great 3013 Burmese Python Hunt and Massacre in Florida. Glad I live in the safe confines of a concrete-walled subdivision in suburban Phoenix.

Good for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and his new contract extension. I’m hardly the biggest footbal fan in the world, but I always thought that Payton (and the Saints, for that matter) were being unjustly punished for the “bounty hunt” scandal that enveloped the team at the end of 2011. It all seemed to me much ado about nothing, and not one of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s finer moments.

Spring Training starts in a little over six weeks.

Man stuffs foot-long sub sandwich into his pants, movie theater is evacuated over possible gun threat. Yep, this is the kind of people we’ve turned into. Which is why I only go out to driving ranges, golf courses, supermarkets, the occasional Mexican restaurant, and the rabbit supply store.

Which reminds me: I like spicy food as much as anyone, but this is (as my brother Dave is wont to say, “batshit crazy”.

Sure his music is pretty good (he is, after all, prominently featured on one of my special back patio music mixes) and he’s a very entertaining author, but what I respect most about Jimmy Buffett is how he took a single hit song concept and, with more than a little creative and successful marketing, turned it into a cash cow.

Which reminds me, a trip to Margaritaville Las Vegas and Goodboys Vegas Weekend 2013 is just a little more than a month away. Can’t wait.

Now let’s see if today will be better for unleashing those Callaways…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:17 | Comments (2)
December 29, 2012

The more I read about the negotiations (or lack thereof) and the political posturing going on in Washington, the more I think everybody should just sit back and watch the country go over the so-called “fiscal cliff”. I agree with Marc Thiessen in Friday’s Washington Post opinion page editorial – Americans voted for bigger government in the 2012 presidential election (I mean, is there anyone out there that thinks Barack Obama and the Democrats want smaller government?), now it’s time for American taxpayers to pony up:

Barring a last-minute breakthrough, taxes will go up for every American taxpayer on Jan. 1 — and that’s a development conservatives should welcome.

Don’t get me wrong, it would be better not to raise taxes on anyone, pursue pro-growth tax reform and cut the size of government instead. But that’s not what the American people voted to do last month. Americans cast their ballots for big government.

Now it’s time to pay for it.

Until now, the growth of government under President Obama has not hit the pocketbooks of most Americans. During Obama’s first term, federal spending grew to more than 24 percent of GDP — the highest it has been since 1946. Yet almost no one in the country (except smokers and those who frequent indoor tanning salons) saw their taxes rise. Quite the opposite: 160 million Americans saw their payroll taxes reduced from 6.2 to 4.2 percent.

How can we expect people to care about the growth of government if it doesn’t cost them anything?

Instead of paying for the current miasma of spending, we’ve been borrowing the money from our children and grandchildren. The national debt has grown by nearly $6 trillion in the four years since Obama took office. That generational theft cannot continue. We must not keep financing big government by passing the bills on to the next generation. Ideally, we would stop the spending binge and live within our means. But if the nation is not up to that, then we should all pitch in and pay for it — all of us

I couldn’t agree more. At some point people have to know that elections have consequences, positive or negative. I have little doubt that there’s a substantial segment of the American population that thinks the government is some benevolent Santa Claus that can print money at will and just play the role of wet-nurse in alleviating everything that ails them. They neither understand or could care about basic economics or where the revenue that government needs at all levels of our society actually comes from. And the problem isn’t insufficient revenue, it’s runaway and reckless spending – by both parties. Time for the wake-up call, kiddies.

Everything – and I do mean everything is about to get more expensive as employers pass along extra costs to consumers. Jobs will become more scarce as employers decide that between higher taxes and greater regulations (especially involving Obamacare) that it’s not worth hiring more people and creating more jobs. Less money in people’s pockets will have an adverse effect on the services industry at all levels, which will in turn create even more scaling back. As a result (and I hope and pray I’ve proven wrong) I have a very bad feeling about 2013 and what is coming down the pike, but this is what Americans voted for. It’s going to be a very tough pill for people to swallow, but maybe this is what needs to happen.

I just hope me and my family aren’t too adversely affected by the changes coming; in the days ahead it’s going to be every man for himself and people tightening their already tight belts further. Everyone, and I do mean everyone is about to be impacted to one extent or another. My sense is that this is actually what Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in Washington want, and what those who either voted for them or didn’t bother to vote for their Republican challengers in effect voted for.

Hang on tight, folks – it’s gonna be a rough ride.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:12 | Comments (0)
December 28, 2012

As the rolling year winds down I fear the future more this year than I can ever remember. But that’s what happens as you get older, I guess…

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ring Out, Wild Bells

Don’t worry, with the help of George Harrison I’ll be quoting Tennyson with my traditional 2012 farewell in just a few days time…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:34 | Comment (1)
December 27, 2012

It’s been a crazy year, to be sure. Tonight Tracey and I finished the long and difficult process of refinancing our 30-year mortgage down to a 15-year without much more added to our monthly mortgage payment. It was something we wanted to do before the New Year set in and I’m glad it’s all taken care of. We’ve got a lot of work to do debt-wise over the next ten months, but at least all the pieces have now fallen into place to enable us to be credit card debt free by October. Let’s hope we all last that long!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:25 | Comments (4)
December 26, 2012

Earlier this month I wrote about my experience shopping for new golf clubs and how I ended up purchasing my new Callaway irons. As I mentioned at that time, the plan was to wait until after Christmas before shopping around for my driver and 3- and 5-woods – the idea being, there would a lots of people finding new club sets or golf shop gift certificates under the Christmas tree, and with Callaway’s RAZR X HL line now pushing two years old I’d find some great deals on gently-used woods out there on the various golf equipment sites.

(A disclaimer before I proceed: Normally this wouldn’t be the best way to shop for golf clubs, but as I mentioned in my earlier post I’ve played the RAZR X HLs a couple of times over at Las Vegas National, so I know the clubs and how they feel and play. Were I looking for a new set of clubs and wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I’d do it the old-fashioned way and find a golf shop with a range and a 30-day return guarantee in case they didn’t work out for me.)

One of the cool things about shopping on eBay is that you can set alerts for things you’re looking to buy: in my case I set an alert up for anything involving a Callaway RAZR X club (or clubs) for sale. A couple of Saturdays ago, it’s late at night and Tracey’s watching TV, the rabbits are munching away happily on their kale nitecaps, and I’m surfing the net mindlessly. I look at e-mail and see a couple of alerts for eBay items, one of which appears to be a left-handed RAZR X HL driver. And it’s on a 24-hour special priced at $90 for quick sale. I check it out, and it looks great, practically new. And it’s just sitting there on the 20″ monitor staring back at me.

I wonder why someone would be selling a driver so cheap – I mean, I’ve seen similar clubs out on eBay are running $130-$180; heck, they were selling for well over $250 less than two years ago new. But it looks in great condition, it has a 14-day return guarantee on it, and it’s looking back at me with a long (club) face, saying:

Dude – I know you were planning on waiting until after Christmas, but my owner needs some Christmas cash fast for Tiny Tim so he can get that operation he needs so there’s no empty chair at the dinner table next year. Don’t leave his fate to the shadows of the Ghost of Christmas Future, buy me!

How could I resist? I immediately transferred some money from the savings account into my Paypal account, and in less than five minutes the deed was done. Now I’m running on pure adrenaline. I check out the Callaway Pre-Owned Clubs site just for yucks – I’d been checking the site out for a couple of months now and it was either that they had no left-handed 3-woods or 5-woods, or the ones they had were too damned expensive. But now I’m astounded at the sight of a 3-wood priced at $82 and a 5-wood at $72. I start doing the math: with all my Cobra trade-ins and the Black Friday deal at RockBottomGolf I paid $210 for set of irons. A $90 driver, an $82 3-wood, and a $72 5-wood, I’m looking at a total set replacement cost of less than $500! I mean, you can’t beat that, even with a stick!

And it’s not as if the pre-owned clubs look like crap – in fact, there are just a few small ball marks on the faces and the shafts look brand-new. I haven’t seen seen the driver yet – Tracey forbids it – but she checked it out and said it looks great. And all come with genuine Callaway head covers! So not only did I upgrade my Cobras, I also gave someone’s Tiny Tim a chance at a new life. What a Christmas story that is!

And, to top it all off, we received a wine gift package from Callaway Vineyard and Winery (no relation) courtesy of my folks – now that makes it a real “Callaway Christmas”!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:32 | Comments (0)
December 25, 2012

Look at the angle of the sun and all the green and the summer wear – doesn’t that look great?

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Merry Christmas from the Goodboys and all here at Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:57 | Comments (0)
December 24, 2012

As much as I love Christmas Eve services in general and have fond memories of attending late-night services in Episcopal times past, since attending Roman Catholic churches here in Gilbert I’ve shyed away from them because of the massive crowds they attract – same holds true for the Great Vigils of Easter which I also love. While I think it’s a great problem for churches to have, dealing with the parking and seating logistics that go with large crowds, as someone who really doesn’t like large crowds anymore, I prefer to leave Christmas and Easter Eve services to the masses and try to celebrate them in my own way.

Rather than not partake of any kind of Christmas devotions altogether, this year I decided my prayer grove is going to be the locale for my own Christmas Eve service. While the green and red is not “the holly and the ivy” of Christmas tradition, the green leaves and red flowers of the bougainvillea certainly make for lovely Christmas colors, and the candles I’ve added this year create a celebratory splendor that will only be enhanced by the lovely outside surroundings – together, it’s a lovely Southwest setting for late afternoon Christmas vespers:

Carmelo and the crew have done a great job maintaining the natural arch shape created by the two large bushes growing together, haven’t they?

While every now and then a wayward leaf-blower has resulted in some collateral damage to the statues, it’s nothing that hasn’t been able to be fixed with a little superglue. Just to the left of the bush on the left is the corner where the wall and the side of the house meet, and that’s where I’ve kitty-cornered a lovely little bench perfect for meditating and praying. And later today, that’s where I’ll be saying my own First Vespers of Christmas. A nice way to set the tone for the later celebrations that will go along with the pot roast dinner I’m preparing with all the fixins to make Christmas Eve as joyous and festive a night as possible.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:21 | Comment (1)
December 23, 2012

With all Christmas shopping and preparations complete, all the action this weekend before Christmas is in back and side yards, as the patio, pool, and pool filter get the necessary attention following last week’s wind and rain storms. The patio had to be swept and washed down, the pool skimmed and swept, and the filter’s cartridges extracted and washed down. The weather was beautiful (sunny and 70 degrees), so I played some Christmas music on the patio (Phil Spector, The Sandals, Enya, Herb Alpert, Loreena McKennitt) and got everything looking spiffy and Santa-ready:

Everything looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? Carmelo’s winter rye really took off after the last rain, and I think the green grass combined with the tiki bar, the pretty Caribbean colors of the patio, and the pool and palm trees give the back yard a real “resort look”, dontcha think?

Getting all the grass to grow on the side yard with the new sprinkler arrangement has proven to be quite a challenge, but I think the sod patches laid down by Carmelo a couple of weeks ago (you can tell the different color green) seems to have helped turn a corner:

There’s a lot of work still left to do come the New Year – all the non cactus and palm tree vegetation is going to have to be sprayed because of an insect and fungus infestation introduced after the major dust storm that blew through here a year ago July. My new tree guy says it took a year for the infestation to really take hold; now I’ve got some serious spraying to do after the holidays are over.

I also still have a big problem with leaks in my irrigation system. All along the back wall the ground is saturated, and because the property grades downhill from back to front and west to east there are portions of the back and side yards that are saturated, and I can tell we’re using more water than usual by the increase in my water bill. It’s not like I have a lake or anything like that, but the ground is saturated. Unfortunately, this being “Arizona winter” I doubt there’s a whole lot I’m going to be able to do until March when the days get warmer and there’s more sun on the property to dry things out and see where the problem(s) truly lies; only then will the landscapers be able to tell where the leaks are.

If you want to know where The Great White Shank’s musical head is this Christmas season, check out the song samples for The Sandals’ Milagro – it really compliments our AZ Christmas surroundings, and I can listen to it anytime without getting into any kind of “ghosts of Christmas past” melancholy. As Sandals legends John Blakeley, and Walter and Gaston Georis write:

We explored rhythms of hand drums and played to the laughter of children. We reached back to old world traditions of chanting and recalled folk melodies which we freely blended into new musical compositions.

The same open window made us tip our hats to border town cowboys who straddle English, Spanish, and Bayou French with ease. It allowed us to blend country and surf guitars with mountain dulcimers, old world squeeze boxes and Latin percussion. Here are a few of our influences:

Winters in Chimayo and Santa Fe, California Missions and Gothic Cathedrals, carols being sung in three different languages at once by three generations, Christmas trees with real candles, border town cantinas where saints and sinners mingle easily, Zorro on the Hacienda, toothless accordion player in Isla Mujeres, Provençal “Santons” crèches with musicians, the Palomino toy horse who survived the bombs, and the many miracles that kept the music alive.

The samples provided, while great in and of themselves, don’t do the CD justice – it’s filled with a holiday spirit that makes you think you’re in Santa Fe for Christmas. As someone who has had the privilege of meeting these guys, the gentle and joyous spirit they bring on both this release and its follow-up, Silvertone that matches perfectly the kind of life and vibe I’m seeking and want to live. The days of pushing new boundaries (other than the mid-90s in golf, of course!) and seeking out new adventures are over with, and I find myself this Christmas in a happier, more comfortable place than I can ever remember myself being.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:53 | Comments (2)
December 22, 2012

Yule, is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were “wassailed” with toasts of spiced cider.
— Yule Lore

Hat tip: egreenway.com

Hey! “Sun King” sounds like a great title for a song

How did I spend the afternoon on the shortest day of the year? Hitting golf balls on a sun-soaked and unusually crowded driving range. I snuck the new (at least for me, they’re pre-owned) Callaway 3-wood and 5-woods lying naked and unguarded under the Christmas tree out for a little excursion (sshhhh! don’t tell anyone…) and I’m pleased to say I hit them pretty good. Definitely a different feel than my old Cobras, but I’m happy with them. There’s a small but significant swing change I’m working on and making some progress with; given that there was a 2-3 person wait for the PGA pro giving lessons (something I’ve never seen before) it looks like plenty of other folks thought the Friday before Christmas was a good time to work on their swings as well.

After all these years you’d think I’d get used to it, but the week before Christmas is the hardest work week of the year. Our clients are trying to squeeze in every software change they can before people head out on vacation through New Year’s, and because people are already on vacation there’s a lot of inexperienced client folk needing help. I worked like a dog this week – over 60 hours, so a couple of pleasant and carefree hours spent at the range were very much needed and an early Christmas present.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:34 | Comments (3)

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