January 31, 2013

OK, PGA Tour, you’ve woken up from your holidays stupor, rubbed your eyes, and shook the rust off to get another year started in Hawaii, the California desert, and Torrey Pines – now it’s time to play some real, big-time golf. It’s the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the rowdiest and biggest event (at least attendance-wise) on the PGA Tour schedule. You want to watch some beautiful golf on a big-screen TV to warm up for the Super Bowl? This is the event for you – a little desert, lots of green on the fairways and greens (and in the stands), beautiful mountains – it’s Arizona golf at its finest. The weather is supposed to be drop-dead gorgeous – in the low to mid-’70s, and Scottsdale will be absolutely hopping. Stroll around the restaurants and bars of Old Town any night of the weekend and you’re bound to see a pro or two having dinner.

Speaking of golf, I just finished re-reading Tom Coyne’s Paper Tiger about the year he took off from life to try and qualify for the PGA Tour’s Q-School several years ago. You know the commercials on TV featuring PGA Tour players and the slogan “These Guys Are Good”? Well, you read Coyne’s intriguing and entertaining book, and you’ll be left with thinking that these guys are not just good, they are unbelievably (bleeping) good. It took Coyne the better part of a year filled with thousands of balls hit and putted each day, the best in swing and fitness training and psych counseling, and brand-new fitted clubs to go from a 16 to a 0.4 handicap, and the best he could do in a bunch of tournaments and qualifiers was shoot in the low to high ’80s – sometimes not even being able to break 90. It’s really a great book – one that makes you realize that whatever we Goodboys are doing out there, it’s not golf like the pros play – in fact, it’s not even close. Think about it: between the America, European, and Asian tours (and I’m including both sexes here), that rarified atmosphere is reserved for little more than (when you think about it) no more than a thousand or so players in the world.

Like they say, do the math.

You want to see something akin to Goodboys golf? Check this out.

Me, I’ll take my poor excuse for a so-called golf game out to Superstition Springs tomorrow to “unleash the hounds”, Callaway-style, for the very first time. Sunny and and a warm 72 after the work week I’ve had – don’t even ask – doesn’t require too many arguments against a much-needed mental health day on the golf course. And I’m just the kind of mental guy to do it.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:17 | Comments (0)
January 30, 2013

Here’s my dream: Tracey says to me, “I don’t care what you do with your kitchen. It’s your territory, and besides, I’ve decided I want to give you full control – and I do mean full control over how you want our house to look. Me? I’m just from this point on a disinclined occupant.”

Boy, would I love that! If you want to see where The Great White Shank’s heart is when it comes to kitchens, check that picture out, will ya? Sure, it’s not the white sheet metal cabinets of my grandparents’ old house I fondly remember, but it’s pretty gear if you ask me. The colors and tile alone really make a statement. Not sure what that statement is, but… this is what I’d be looking for:

By the late 1950s, designers began to apply color and styling to everyday, functional items, and American kitchens exhibited rich colors compared to previous appliances. The influx of color was a reaction to the antiseptic white of the previous decades, and it allowed homeowners to coordinate the kitchen with other rooms as well. General Electric first made colored appliances in 1954, and competing manufacturers introduced other colors to American homes such as fern green, buttercup yellow, and lagoon blue. In 1958, the year of the Stats home’s construction, the home appliance journal Electrical Merchandising summed up the demand for pink appliances — “If forced to pick one color as leading this year, most industry men say pink is tops.”

The form and shape of appliances also saw a remarkable change in the decade from 1955-1965. Kitchens were designed as an integrated unit which was, in theory, more appealing to the homemaker. The sleek appearance, flat surfaces, and right angles of the appliances and cabinets gave the impression of a clean, efficient laboratory. Coupled with the increased capabilities and efficiencies of the new appliances, homemakers could enjoy spending large amounts of time in the kitchen tending to family and guests.

Problem is, my living room and kitchen are part of a so-called “great room”, meaning I’d have to look for sleek lines and boldness in the living room as well. The good news is we already have it, with the exception of the wood end tables and which could easily be converted to chrome and glass and look fantastic! Not to mention having as the centerpiece a chrome “bowling dome bar set” like my grandparents used to have.

Now let’s head to the bathrooms. I wouldn’t touch Tracey’s – she’d kill me – but I do have my own, and here’s the style I’d love to implement:

Plain and simple, here’s your typical 1950s bathroom in Phoenix homes: 4? pastel tiles with contrasting trim, vitreous china sink, and wood vanity.

Like, yeah, so what’s your problem?? The first few pics at the link I really love, and further down I dig the yellow and light blue. Bathrooms should be happy or relaxing places, so the pics with garish dark colors don’t do it for me. And lose the gold fixtures – it’s only chrome or pewter for me. But again, as long as you do pastels how can one go wrong?

Back to reality: looks like I’ll have to wait until I have enough money to move to Palm Springs or find a retro house with a sunken livingroom. Think about it: golf during the day, cocktails afterwards, what could be better?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:20 | Comments (6)
January 29, 2013

This time is year is always kind of odd, with the excitement of the holidays past and yet too many weeks to go before the first thoughts of Spring starting percolating. Still, there’s always time for a couple of brief poems to capture the essence of the new year:

“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. Minute by minute they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change. It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a
twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.”
- Vita Sackville-West

That’s true, I can already tell the days are starting to get longer. Although the cool, blustery day that followed the passing of our weekend rain storms provided a reminder that around here it is still “Arizona winter”.

“You think I am dead,”
The apple tree said,
“Because I have never a leaf to show-
Because I stoop,
And my branches droop,
And the dull gray mosses over me grow!

But I’m still alive in trunk and shoot;
The buds of next May
I fold away-
But I pity the withered grass at my root.”

“You think I am dead,”
The quick grass said,
“Because I have parted with stem and blade!
But under the ground,
I am safe and sound
With the snow’s thick blanket over me laid.

I’m all alive, and ready to shoot,
Should the spring of the year
Come dancing here-
But I pity the flower without branch or root.”

“You think I am dead,”
A soft voice said,
“Because not a branch or root I own.
I never have died, but close I hide
In a plumy seed that the wind has sown.

Patient I wait through the long winter hours;
You will see me again-
I shall laugh at you then,
Out of the eyes of a hundred flowers.”
- Edith M. Thomas,

Hat tip: egreenway.com

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:19 | Comments (0)
January 28, 2013

We finally got a respite from the rain today after a very wet past few days that saw some records broken:

Saturday’s wet weather wound up being record setting, as the 1.12 inches that fell at Sky Harbor Airport were the most ever for Jan. 26. That is actually more than double the old record of .43 inches set back on this date in 1985. Saturday was also the eighth wettest January day on record for the Valley.

The rain fell so heavily it even stranded hikers up in the mountains. Not sure how much more rain we got early this morning, but for nearly an hour before it got light it really came down. Wouldn’t surprise me if this last storm gave us 1-2″ of rain here in the East Valley. As much as my back and side yards didn’t need any more water coming down upon it, you won’t hear me (or anyone around here, for that matter) complain about an excess of rain in the desert. These storms are hard to come by, and we welcome them when they do – we know what lies ahead!

With my back and side yards already wet from the Great Watering System Fiasco, it’s not suprising that one treads on any grass surface at their own risk. In parts of the backyard, you’d sink into mud several inches thick; as the photo shows, step around the side yard and you’re likely to get bopped on the head by a falling lemon – between the recent freeze and this past week’s rain the yard is a mess.

Fortunately, there’s no sign of rain in the forecast any time soon and we’ll be back up in the mid- to high 70′s by week’s end, so maybe – just maybe – things can start drying out around here.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 17:00 | Comments (2)
January 26, 2013

It’s been a damp and dreary weekend here in the Valley of the Sun, and it looks like we’re gonna stay in it for another day or two. Sure, it’s not good for outside activities and my hopes to start seeing my backyard finally begin to dry out, but we’ll always take the rain, that’s for sure!

My “Tropical Breezes” music collection has a number of tunes from various offerings in the National Park Series of CDs, featuring some wonderful performers, especially Tim Heintz, Ramon Stagnaro, and Grant Geissman – each of them fantastic musicians in their own right. Just check out their various websites and you’ll see what I mean.

One of the cuts from the “Hawaii” disc, called “Trade Winds”, featuring Heintz and Geissman is so pretty that I thought it a worthy addition to The Great White Shank’s YouTube channel, so I created a video featuring some lovely pictures from the Hawaiian Islands. Knowing the pictures and music would bring back fond memories of past visits they’ve made to Hawaii, I decided to dedicate the video to my Mom and my Auntie Marge. Hope you enjoy it as much as I’m sure they will!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 19:38 | Comments (3)
January 25, 2013

Lots of hubbub this week over Phil Mickelson’s comments about the “radical changes” he’s planning on making because of the increased tax burden he’s facing as a California resident and recent changes in the federal and state tax codes. As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey writes, Mickelson is nothing more than yet another example of what happens when the “static tax analysis” of government bureaucrats meets the “dynamic tax analysis” of the individual:

All right, class, here’s the lesson on tax analysis. According to static analysis, used by proponents of tax hikes [Ed. note: i.e., Democrats and liberals], raising the rate on people like Mickelson will derive a predictable amount of additional revenues because those proponents assume that the wealthy don’t have the resources or the intelligence to adjust to the new policy. Dynamic tax analysis assumes that raising taxes will prompt the people with the most resources — like Mickelson — to change their behavior to meet the new tax environment.

Tax-hike proponents think California will get a bigger cut of Mickelson’s earnings. Dynamic analysis proponents think California won’t get any of Mickelson’s earnings, because Mickelson’s likely to move to a state with no state income tax, or at least lower rates. Which do you think is the more realistic assumption, and not just for Mickelson but for the rest of the well-resourced high-end earners looking for ways to minimize the bite on their checks? Oh, let’s not always see the same hands…

Don’t get me wrong: no one, including yours truly, is going to feel sorry for Phil anytime soon. Were his comments insensitive? Oh, I suppose – if you had just lost your job you might resent his comments. But my feeling is that this is a risk/reward society: the guy has worked extremely hard to get where he’s gotten, and he has every right to try and keep as much of the money he makes for his family as he can. Were I in his shoes I’d be thinking the same thing. And you know you would too.

Me? I hope Phil pulls up stakes and moves here to next door neighbor Arizona, where we went to school. We’d love to have him here.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:45 | Comments (0)
January 24, 2013

In the mail today: the first of our two W2s. As soon as the New Year is upon us, tax time is never far away.

What a sweet story. Surely these two sisters are amongst God’s saints in heaven.

Excuse me for not paying the least amount of attention to Barack Obama’s inauguration and the start of his second terms in office. To be truthful? I’m tired of his divisive rhetoric, his ever-classy wife, and the kind of politics they practice. They’re both nothing more than gangsta politicians from Chicago who have little concern for anyone else’s interests but their own. He’s only interested in destroying whatever political opposition he has, she’s only interested in shoving their collective socialist agenda down the throats of the American people, regardless of the cost and damage it does. But hey: you wanted it and voted for it, America, so enjoy. Just count me out.

Likewise, count me just as sick of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and the spineless Republicans in Washington who have little clue as to what the term “opposition party” means. I recently changed my voter affiliation back to independent after a decade as a Republican and I’m not going back. What’s the point? Obama and the Republicans in Washington are just two variations of the same choice: big, intrusive government or even bigger, more intrusive government.

R.I.P. Stan Musial, one of the true greats of baseball. Classy to the end, they sure don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Likewise, R.I.P. Earl Weaver. A great manager, one of the best in baseball history. Heard he died while on a Carnival Cruise – now that’s a great way to go. Wouldn’t mind paying my own bon voyage the same way – on the waves under tropical skies. Preferably with a boat drink in my hand.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:17 | Comments (0)
January 23, 2013

If there’s one thing that scares the bejeezus out of the average homeowner it’s the propect of water being where it shouldn’t. The guy a few doors down from us went to work one day and had the valve underneath his toilet let go while he was away; he comes home to find 600 gallons of water in his house. Anytime I see a fire / smoke / water restoration truck outside someone’s home it just gives me the heebie-geebies. I mean, I’ve had a couple of water leaks since we’ve been in this house, but fortunately the only thing I ended up having to replace was a 3 X 3 piece of wallboard. I know and you all know it can be a whole lot worse.

Just ask my sister-in-law: we had those two pre-Christmas rainstorms last month and now she’s got a 6′ X 6′ hole in her living room ceiling with just heavy plastic, plywood, and roof tiles – no insulation whatsoever – between her and the heavens.

Which is why this water issue in the backyard has been so problematic, to the point of obsession. Along my back wall the soil is soaking wet, and, peeking over the wall at the neighbors’ yards it doesn’t look like it’s coming from their side of things. But I’ve got half a yard that’s just a muddy quagmire, our water bill last month was through the roof, and because of the December rainstorms and a general lack of sun and warmth the ground has been too wet for the landscaping guys to come by and really see where the source of the wet is coming from.

So imagine my surprise on Sunday when I decided to check all my irrigation settings now that the weather has warmed back up again. My watering system has three programs: Program A, for the daily 5-minute watering of the front, side, and back lawns; Program B for the weekly 1-hour watering of the front bushes, back bushes, and backyard palms; and Program C, typically reserved for special waterings and presently unused. I’m clicking my way through the various daily settings and see that one of Carmelo’s guys has got my back bushes watering for one hour – on the daily schedule! My mind turns into a human calculator: that’s 1 hour of water every day dripping 1 gallon of water around seven bushes and one of the palms. That on top of the hour they were normally getting watered every Sunday.

Like they say, do the math.

So I’ve been getting eight 7-gallon waterings a week (daily plus the normal Sunday watering), 56 gallons of water, being poured along my back wall (where the bushes are) for the last who knows how many weeks or even months. I mean, no wonder I have a water issue! Given that the yard has a slight back-to-front and left-to-right slant, and the soil being as porous as it is around here, no wonder ‘X’ (or ‘Q’ for quagmire) marks the spot where everything is saturated.

As a fatalist by nature, I don’t believe complex issues have easy solutions, so this just seems to good to be true. Nevertheless, I’ve gone out on a limb and cancelled the landscaper call and will monitor the situation as (hopefully) everything gradually dries out as we’re back on a sane watering schedule over the coming month.

And, I’ll just to tell Carmelo to tell his boys to keep their paws off the irrigation box. Nicely, of course…

At this point I just want all the water to go back to where it belongs. Will it? We’ll see…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:52 | Comments (2)
January 22, 2013

Honest-to-goodness tale from the driving range this past Friday. I’m hitting balls at the far left end of the Superstition Springs driving range, right next to the stall where the PGA pro has his set-up. It’s my favorite spot since, being a lefty, I don’t have anyone to my left hitting balls, and because people don’t like to walk that far the grass is usually better. The pro’s area is really nice – he has a canopy with his name and logo on it, all sorts of equipment, and a prearranged stack of balls that looks like a gleaming white version of the Luxor Las Vegas. Anyways, I’m leisurely working my way through a half-bucket of balls, the weather is Chamber of Commerce gorgeous, and after the cold temperatures early in the week it was nice just to feel the warmth of the sun and enjoy the happy sound of golfers hitting balls down the line.

I have to admit I was striking the ball pretty damned well, at least for me; at the time I was in the middle of launching a string of 3-woods dead center to a tight “fairway” created to the left of the 100-yard marker and the right of some unnatural hills that separate the range from the course itself. The pro was puttering around setting up for his afternoon lessons, so we just naturally engaged in a little conversation – y’know, how’s business, the upcoming Phoenix Open, etc.; we’ve chatted before and he’s a real nice guy. Watched him give lessons before, he’s got a great “bedside manner”.

(Unlike, say, the clown at Green Meadow in Hudson, NH a few years ago who after seeing me hit a few pathetic 5-irons says to me, “why can’t you understand what I’m saying – here, watch!”, and he proceeds to hit a string of shots on one leg and with one hand while laughing his ass off. Or, a guy named Jeff Katz who my late Goodboys friend “Doc” Frechette introduced me to when I was first picking up the game. The guy called himself “the best-ball striker east of the Mississippi” and has me do some drills with a yellow pail and a broom before saying, “I can’t fix you, sorry. That’ll be $40, you can pay me.” Another great confidence booster. Two so-called “lessons”, a dozen years of Post Traumatic Stress Swing Syndrome.)

But I digress…

Ten minutes later the pro’s finished setting up and he’s killing time waiting for his lesson (a 6-year old, no less!) to show, so he stands next to me and says, only half-jokingly, “so, let’s see what you got.” This gets the attention of a nice older fella hitting balls in the stall next to me, so he stops what he’s doing and says with a big grin on his face. “Now you’ve done it”, he says, “you got the attention of the pro!”. I have to tell you, were this during my golf PTSD days of even 4-5 years ago, I’d probably whiff while wetting my pants since I used to get unglued having strangers watch me hit. Fortunately, those days are long past; with the help of my Goodboy friend “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis I’ve actually cultivated a pretty damned good swing that meets my needs and creates no bother or stress at what others might see or think.

So, I tee a ball up and feel a nice, easy swing coming on as I absolutely stripe another 3-wood dead straight down the middle of my so-called “fairway”. I even hold the finish high a few extra seconds for good measure.

“Atta boy!”, says the guy next to me. The pro is quiet for a second then grins, “keep that elbow in and you won’t need any help from me”.

I’ll tell ya, that moment alone was worth about a hundred crummy moments (or more) from my golf past. With golf being such a mental game (and I’m proof of that!) it probably also exorcised a few demons along the way as well.

Of course, ten minutes later I’m duffing 7-irons in front of the 6-year old’s older brother (at one point I look over at him and say, “don’t try this at home, you’ll shoot your eye out!”, but he doesn’t get the joke), but by then the pro is deep into his lesson, and the older fella next to me has left, offering up a half-bucket of his own balls as a “reward” for my good deed. I finish off my session taking some easy half-swings with my 6-iron, creating a lovely blanket of balls around the 125-yard marker. The golf gods, for a very brief second of time in golf eternity, have smiled down on me, and on a sun-washed driving range in the Valley of the Sun on a Friday afternoon, life seems very good indeed.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:39 | Comment (1)
January 21, 2013

Some golf-related thoughts while wondering how many people really care about a Baltimore Ravens – San Francisco 49′ers matchup… I can’t imagine having to watch the Pats lose at some local Massachusetts establishment and step out into freezing winter conditions for the drive home. All that does is make the winter seem even longer.

What a great weekend it was for watching golf on TV – you had the Humana Challenge out in the California desert at PGA West and the Champions Tour playing at Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii. Beautifully scenic desert golf followed by oceanside golf all in a single sitting – have yourself a couple of brewskies and a big bowl of popcorn and play couch potato for a weekend.

I don’t care what anyone says, nice guy or not, great swing and millions of dollars in career earnings aside, Charles Howell III is the definition of a modern-day career golf pro. It’s one thing to have a great swing, but the difference between him and the likes of a Tiger or Phil or Rory is light years. I’m not saying he isn’t a talented player – he is – it’s just that he doesn’t have the kind of killer instinct you need to win regularly on Tour.

And Bud Cauley might be the nicest guy in the world, but he sure doesn’t look it when he’s out there playing. I can think of a couple two three of the new “up and comers” that seem like privileged pretty boys who don’t know how good they’ve got it. Some emotion, a smile, or a self-deprecating remark or two before the cameras wouldn’t hurt their cause. Phil Mickelson isn’t enormously popular simply because he’s a great golfer.

Had to feel for Scott Stallings, losing a five-shot leagoing into the final round at the Humana, then blowing it with some poor shots over the last few holes. Seems like a nice guy, though, and, with two wins under his belt already he’ll figure out what went wrong and be standing in the winner’s circle again soon. He’s certainly got the game.

I’m not a golf video player, but this would certainly make me think about trying it. Check the link out – the look and feel they’ve created is fantastic.

Nike has a winner with that Tiger Woods / Rory McIlroy commercial. Can’t wait to see the next in the series.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:11 | Comment (1)

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