Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Golf is hard and so is Pool

Golf and the Yips

One of my favorite quotes about golf is from Winston Churchill. Sir Winston allegedly described golf as “a game where you attempt to send a small ball into a small hole using implements wholly unsuited to the purpose.” I can’t think of a better
...and tomorrow
I shall be sober
description, frankly.

There have been times when I felt as though I could do anything I wanted with a golf club and the ball would react as I envisioned. I recall playing a round of golf with a non-playing girl friend riding along with me in the cart. I had badly hooked my tee shot on a par 4 and the ball had come to rest in the middle of a parallel fairway about 170 yards from the green with a large stand of trees between the two of them. She asked me what I was going to do to remedy the situation. As I took my stance, I said, “I’m going to hit a high fade over the trees and it’s going to land right on the green.” I’m pretty sure her response was something like, “Yeah, right.”

I took a swing and the ball took off, rose up over the trees, turned right and fluttered onto the green about 10 feet away from the hole, exactly as I’d seen it in my mind’s eye. I walked back to the cart to put my club back in the bag, feeling pretty studly, as the young lady asked me, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just hit it down the middle of the fairway, first, instead of having to go over the trees?”

That’s golf in a nutshell; momentary flashes of brilliance surrounded by longer periods of abject stupidity.

My putting suffered from the yips for a number of years. For those of you unfamiliar with them, the yips are a psychological problem that infects a part of your golf game, usually putting although Charles Barkley 
He actually poses
like this during the swing
suffers from it in his full swing. (There are videos on YouTube but I don’t recommend watching them if you play golf. The yips transfer through the eyes. You have been warned!)

For about seven or eight years, attempting to putt in the 20 – 30 foot range was very uncomfortable. I’d pull the putter back and then twitch as I was about to hit the ball. As you might imagine, the ball didn’t do what I was hoping it would, most of the time. The result is that one begins to feel it coming on and can only just watch and hope for the best as if having an out of body experience with a golf club in ones hand.

It was so bad that I almost gave up the game. Somehow I managed to push the yips out of my putting so that, nowadays, I’m regarded as a very good putter. I don’t recall how I accomplished this; probably better off forgotten anyway.

Unfortunately, the yips now inhabit my chipping and short game. Typically, the ball will either travel about three or four feet because I’ve hit the ground behind it
(golfers call this the chili-dip or the Hormels after that famous brand of chili) or it will run quickly across the green, missing the hole by a wide margin and into a much worse location because I’ve bladed the ball and it didn’t get off the ground at all.

When my best friend plays with me, he will turn his head when I’m about to play a short shot around the green. And encourage others to look away. I can’t blame him but it must be very hard to do. Like not looking at a traffic accident as you drive slowly past it; don’t you just have to look?
Operators are standing by!

The good news is that this past weekend, I played 9 holes with my best friend and found a method for swinging that doesn’t hurt my arthritic wrists! There may be hope that I can continue playing this great game. And hitting the ugliest chip shots with a smile on my face.

Or maybe I’ll have the time to devote to fixing it.

Pool and the Yips

I play pool, I think, for many of the same reasons that I play golf. It’s difficult. It’s mentally challenging, probably more than it is physically challenging. And since the player is the one that is solely responsible for success or failure, I don’t have anyone else to blame for a poor shot. All of that appeals to me. Along with the fact that you can drink while playing, I suppose.

I usually get an hour or two on Sunday afternoon to practice my pool game. I spend the time doing some drills for speed control, quality of stroke, and to cement my pre-shot routine. I also spend time doing something called a Q-skills drill which is a semi-scientific way to track progress over time.

My practice sessions over the past month or so have been really good and I feel as if I’ve reached a new level in my game. That makes last night’s occurrence all the more disturbing.

Monday night is league night for me. I play in an 8 Ball league at one of the few remaining pool rooms in the area, Diamond Billiards. It’s a BCA league (for all of you that care about such things) and is very competitive. My team is made up of 5 people, and we’re all pretty fair players. Halfway through the current session, we’re in first place.

In my first match last night, I broke dry and my opponent scratched on his opening shot giving me ball in hand anywhere on the table. I set up for an easy shot in the side pocket with just a touch of angle on it so as to play position for the next shot, slightly down table. I went through my pre-shot routine, got down on the shot, went through my mental checklist and shot. The object ball hit the point of the side pocket, ricocheted over to the other point of the pocket, rattled back and forth and did not fall. I had managed to miss my opening shot with ball in hand!
Just a bit outside!

I was so stunned, I don’t remember walking back to my seat. My teammates were all staring at me, wondering what happened. I was trying to determine what I’d done to miss that easy of a shat (truly, the easiest possible shot). The only thing I could come up with was that I’d been trying to cheat the pocket and had over-done it, causing the ball to catch the edge of the rail by mistake. Meanwhile, my opponent was running the table and played a safety with 2 balls left. I got back to the table with almost nothing to shoot at, managing to make a couple of shots before missing a very difficult safety of my own and my opponent ran out.

In league play, when you do something dumb like this, your teammates are there to pick you up, and cover your errors.  Or, they abuse you relentlessly for the next 30 minutes or so, just to help you remember that stupid stuff isn’t tolerated. Whatever. I’m guilty of it, too.

I managed to get my groove back a little bit in the second game although the other team kept getting these silly rolls when they would miss and leave us with really bad position from which to shoot. I lost that one, too.

In the third game, I broke dry and my opponent was running out when he rattled a ball and left me a shot. I ran the rack out, making some very difficult shots and playing some pinpoint position. I felt like I was back!

In the last game, my opponent ran down to the 8 ball before snookering himself. When he fouled trying to hit the 8, he gave me ball in hand. I didn’t even think about what had happened in the first game as I plotted my path to run out the rack. (Having very short memory is essential to confident shooting.)

I set up my first shot, made it and got perfect position for the next one. I ran every shot just as I had drawn it up in my mind and it was a difficult layout with a tight cluster of 4 balls at one end of the table that required a break out shot to enable the run out.

With only the 7 ball and the 8 left on the table, I was set up for a very simple touch shot in the corner where the cue ball would strike the 7, make it in the corner pocket and then roll forward about a foot for position on the 8 in the other corner. The shot required a gentle stroke with just enough speed to accomplish everything.

I got down on the shot, went through my mental checklist and shot. The object ball, I could immediately see, was slightly offline and hit the point of the pocket. It rattled back and forth, and stayed up on the table.

The cue ball rolled forward into perfect position…..for my opponent to shoot the 8 ball into the opposite pocket to win the game.

Yep, did it again.

Some rather colorful language came out of my mouth, quietly, as I slowly walked back to my seat amongst my teammates. They congratulated me for the great run, even if I did choke on the most important shot of the game. (These words were said with a smile, at least.) I truly have no idea how I missed that ball. Probably a tiny eye movement at the last second.

Now these two shots, that I went brain dead on, aren’t really the yips as the yips are typically a constantly repeated, psychologically driven phenomenon. And I didn’t see them coming, as you can when you really have the yips. But damn. They hurt just as badly.

I guess it’s back to the practice table again this weekend.  Good thing, too, since it’s Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ruminations on Truth

Goodbye and RIP to one of the funniest people ever.

Monday night, I was at pool league and thumbing through Facebook between matches when I saw someone post that Robin Williams was dead. To say I was surprised would have been the understatement of the night; I was shocked and horribly saddened, especially after hearing that suicide was suspected. How awful must it be that someone who is that incredibly funny, who causes people to smile with just a facial expression or a change in accent, suffers so much inside that he can only say, “Check please!” to life.

Many people talk about what a genius he was on stage, and he was. But he was also a workingman’s comic, bringing labor to the craft and not just relying on pure adrenaline and chutzpah to carry the performance. I once watched him riff on what comics are thinking about while doing their act and was completely transfixed in watching the only version of meta-comedy I’ve ever seen! What it took to prepare that routine must have been exhausting and I was in awe.

He was also a cyclist and a big fan of bike racing, occasionally showing up at local crits and big events wherever he was. Performance Bike had a post this morning that he once showed up for one of their group rides at the home office when he was on location for a film in Raleigh. Evidently, they’ve never been the same. I can only imagine him riffing on the thoughts of a bike racer…..

That we have a huge record of his talent is comforting, in a very small way, that we can go back and catch some of his stuff. That we’ll never get to see anything new from him, and he still had legs, is very difficult to imagine. I hope, Robin, that your pain is now gone as our own – over your loss – will eventually subside. You were a master funnyman, sir. Rest well.
Going to try for Almighty laughter.....

Ruminations on Truth

It’s been crazy at work lately so I haven’t had much time to write.

It’s also summertime and there are so many things to do. There’s my bike to ride as often as possible; three times this past weekend, alone! There’s the lawn to be mowed and ours is three acres so it takes about 2 ½ hours to cut. There are projects out in the shop that people are waiting on for completion, trophies, and mantles, and music stands, and I don’t know what all. There’s golf to be played with my friends. And besides all that, beer!

Bike Truth

The truth is I haven’t ridden my bike nearly as much as I would like. I’ve managed to accumulate over 1200 miles so far this year but I wish I had more under my belt. I’m riding in the Tour of Richmond again in October and that’s a century ride. I don’t want that to be another Tour de Cure where I was gassed at the 30 mile mark and had to limp back to the start. (I didn’t even post a ride report on that one, I was so upset. On the bright side, because it wasn’t about me, my teammates and I and You raised over $9500!) So, I pretty much have to be diligent in riding 3-5 times a week for the next two months in order to make the entire 102 miles.
Fast Eddy - Showroom pose

I did follow my son’s advice and purchase a Brooks Saddle for Fast Eddy in an effort to improve my ride by reducing the dreaded numbness. According to all the experts, any saddle can be made comfortable simply through fitting properly and then adjusting it until it’s just right. This strikes me as testing to see if you’ve broken a finger by smacking all of them, one at a time, with a hammer until you find the one that hurts the worst. That’s the broken one!
Joy for my tuschis!

But the Brooks Saddle, made of top grain leather, is very firm. With only three rides on it, so far, I can tell it’s going to be a winner – once I’ve broken it into my behind. Or my behind breaks in, whichever comes first.

Lawn mowing Truth

The next truth is that I’ve mowed the lawn exactly twice this summer. MB typically does it but has also been pulled in other directions so I’ve had to jump in and do it a couple of times. I hate to cut the lawn so it just seems like a lot more than only twice. And we have a John Deere riding mower so it's not physically demanding or anything.
It's got a cup holder!

When I was twelve, I had a lawn service in my neighborhood. Every week, I’d cut the grass at 18 or 20 houses and get paid anywhere from $3.50 to $5.00 for it. I was the richest twelve year old in the county! But after a few years of that, my love for cutting grass disappeared and remains missing to this day. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the look of a well manicured lawn, I just can’t be the one do it. At least not any more than I have to.

Shop Truth

I finished the trophies for the Virginia State 9 Ball Championships again this year, an event I usually play in. This year, it was scheduled to coincide with my and MB’s wedding anniversary and we went out of town for that so, I didn’t play.

The mantle was completed months ago, a piece in beautiful cherry that was great fun to design and build. The music stand is for MB to hold her flute and piccolo when she is playing in our church orchestra / band / music group. I made one that, unfortunately isn’t exactly what she wanted so that one will be moved into our music room (since our last daughter moved out, we’re re-purposing some rooms in the house) and I’ll make another version based on her feedback on the first.
I have a large pile of maple out in the shop waiting for me to turn it into a stand for music leaders during church services and I’ll need to get to that in the next month or so. I have a design in my mind and I just have to execute it, some future weekend.

Golf Truth

This one pains me. Literally. I haven’t played a single round this year. Haven’t even swung a club in anger. Every time I think I’d like to go play, or even hit some practice balls, I tweak one of my wrists and remember that I have arthritis in both of them. And it hurts. It especially hurts to swing a golf club. And it hurts my soul that the game that I’ve loved my entire life is no longer a part of it.
I miss this pose.

The next time I think about it, and it happened this past weekend but I couldn’t connect with my buddy Clyde to go, I’m just going to go do it. Pain be damned. I’m going to push through it, much like you do when learning to play the guitar and you just keep forming chords until the blisters turn into calluses and it doesn’t hurt you any longer. I’m not sure my wrists will go numb like my finger tips did, but I’m going to find out.  Dammit.

Beer Truth

An old saying going something like this, “There’s a whole lot of lies in a full bottle of scotch and a whole lot of truth in an empty one.” The same could be said of beer but it takes more than one bottle.
Yum. A small flight!
Beer is one of the big stories in Richmond this year as we’ve suddenly become the cool place to open a craft brewery. In the past 2 years, about 8 new brewers have set up shop and are brewing some of the best, ingenious beers you can drink. And if you include Charlottesville, an hour to the west, that number almost doubles. It’s a wonderful thing.

And that’s the truth!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday 'Murica!

Start Me Up

I'm writing this on the 4 of July, a holiday that I've celebrated in numerous ways over the years.

I've played golf, gone to a jam session, gotten drunk (more than once) been to picnics and concerts, played tennis, worked in the yard, gotten stoned, been to beach, and one occasion slept the entire day away until just before a fireworks display because I'd been up to see the sunrise.

In any case, it's nearly always involved seeing a fireworks display which, to me, is kind of like lighting the candles on the country's birthday cake. Kind of fitting for a country as large and impressive as ours is, if you ask me.
Not cake but close enough

Easy to Be Hard

The cynic in me wants to say, "I wonder how much longer we're going to be able to celebrate the birth of our nation? Will she really exist for much longer?"

If you're like me, you read newspapers, watch TV, read the internet, watch podcasts and are appalled by the current state of affairs. Never have we been more at odds with each other in the government, with both sides claiming the other is responsible for nothing getting done. The far Right thinks the far Left is every bit as crazy the far Left thinks the far Right is. Everyone in the middle (that group seems to be ever shrinking although if you ask most people, they'll tell you they're moderate even as they're cursing the POTUS or the Speaker) thinks the 2 extremes are hopeless and there isn't anything that the moderates can do to mediate anything, either.

So, you throw up your hands and say, "Let's throw these bums out!" And on election day, everyone continues to vote for their bum because, he or she is the only one making any sense; it's the other bums that need to be thrown out. Except, that almost never happens.  After all, my guy may be a bum but he is my bum!

Look back to look forward

If you look back about 50 or so years ago, go read some old newspapers (the interweb makes it really easy to do this) you'll find that this current state is not so current. Back in the 1960s, the issue was Equal Rights.
We're all the same. Truly.
Go back to the late 30s and early 40s and it was World War 2. Late 20s and early 30s, it was the Great Depression.  And the list goes on and on. We've always had these divisive times; we've always managed to work our way through them; we've always come out the other side a better republic for it (at least I think so) and then we've moved on to the next topic.

What's it mean? Well, to me it means that it's this constant state of unease, discomfort, divisiveness and the like that makes us uniquely American. In most every other country of the world, this sort of thing winds up in civil war (which is the greatest contradiction in terms I've known) followed by a complete breakdown of government, followed by many years of failed attempts at new ones. But in our case, we just keep keeping on.

Currently, we've got the Affordable Care Act that one side desperately wants to repeal while the other side wants to continue to drive into place and adapt as it makes sense. Why? Because we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world and yet it ranks 37th most effective. Yep, we need healthcare reform. Desperately. Is this the right version? Probably not but based on a great deal of study on my part, it's the best we could do under the circumstances. Does it need to be adapted? Absolutely if it's truly going to work. If both sides took that stance and helped to do it, we'd get there a helluva lot faster, too.

Next, we've got the Russia / Ukraine thing and the Middle East. (When have we not had that? Not in my lifetime, that's for sure, and that covers a lot of time.) One side says America needs to get in there and kick some ass to bring everyone into line. The other says America needs to lead the diplomacy efforts. (I think it's probably a little of both but my foreign affairs chops are not that great.) In any case, America needs to lead what happens because it's a global economy and our own economy turns on it so we need to ensure our interests are looked after financially. We also need to keep ourselves safe; 911 is still a little too close for me to forget that we need to be diligent in watching our enemies. Hell, we don't even know who they all are!

Then we've got Immigration. That one is messy and needs to be better handled and I don't know what the answer is. I do know that all of our families started as immigrants in this country, unless you're born to a Native American family. Let's be a little more tolerant of people that want to come here and start a life. If you don't think that's right, I question whether or not you're truly an American because we all started someplace else and became Americans.

Last, for this post, we've got poverty.
This one may be the most contentious for many people."Why should I give to others, why can't they work for it themselves? If we just keep giving to them, they'll never want to work for what the rest of us have." The other side says, "We need to tax the rich, redistribute wealth, put a bigger tax on corporations so everyone can have a better life."

I'm unable to find a single religion that doesn't teach everyone to help their fellow human beings. I'm talking all the major religious texts, Bible, Koran, Torah, Talmud, you name it. They all tell us to do that. If you call yourself one of the people that follow these teachings, and you don't do that, what does it say about your beliefs?

In my opinion, the gap between the have and have nots will continue to grow until either we get a conscience and do something about it (figure out a way for the have nots to have more) or that will be the thing that takes this country down. Think about it people, there are well over 300 million guns out in the public possession: if the have nots get pissed enough, we could have our own "civil war" here and would have a tough time ending it. Then we'd really be a third world country.

(I realize that I've left out many issues of today including same sex marriage, women's rights, and a bunch more. I was trying to keep this missive less than a million words. Please forgive anything that you wanted to see in here and don't assume I don't care about. I do. Plenty.)

In Any Case

I believe that America will get past our current issues, and find something new to argue about. It would be nice to have some good things to talk about on TV news networks but that doesn't sell air time; maybe Fox News and MSNBC are the ones behind all this.  Keeps the ratings up, don't you know?

Not saying anything except both channels are represented here

We have an education system that is beginning to lag other countries. We no longer build the best cars on the planet and we import much of what we eat because farmers really struggle to live. We no longer manufacture much here because it's cheaper to import it. (The local Woodcraft store had a sale today on anything that was made in the USA, 15% off. Do you know how hard I had to look to find something to buy? Damn!) The only reason we have enough decent doctors is that many of them have immigrated from other countries; same is true for most of our IT infrastructure. And damn few of our young people are getting into the trades, a job that pays a solid middle class wage because many go to college, run up a huge debt, and then find a job as a barista while they try to find something that meets their schooling. That's kind of messed up, don't you think? (Mike Rowe is working on a project to change this. Go to to learn more about his organization. I'm a big fan!) We send people to school longer than ever before and they wind up dumber than ever before. We spend more, save less, and have far less to show for it because of how we've changed what's important to us as a country. (I don't think it's permanent but I'm not terribly optimistic, either.)

But we are America. We have a huge, finally getting healthy economy. We have a glorious land with many riches and bounty to enjoy. We still have one of the highest standards of living in the world and are still looked upon as the leaders of the free world. We will get through these trying times and move on the next ones, hopefully during my lifetime. 

I believe we will still do great things because we're Americans and that's what we do, dammit. Let's get busy!

Happy Birthday America! You still look good for 238!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thanks Mom!

Happy Mother's Day!  

To all of you mothers out there, I say, "Thanks!" You've got one of the toughest jobs on the planet, almost never get a day off, and are on call every night. Those of us who are dads know very well that if we didn't have you taking care of us, along with the kids, the human race would have perished centuries ago.

I'd like to tell you about two of my favorite moms.

My Mom

First, my mom will never see this. She and my father are both pretty serious Luddites and don't have internet. They've gotten through 80 plus years without it, so no use trying it out now.  I may print this off and mail it to her so she can see what I write about.

My mom was a pretty average mom from back in those days. I was born in 1957 and my brothers were both born in the early 1960s. Mothers back then stayed at home, most of the time. I only recall one or two mothers in my neighborhood that worked outside the home and that wasn't until the late 60s. 

Our mom stayed at home until I was about 15 or so at which time, she took up teaching tennis for the country recreation and parks department. Over the years, she became one of the best instructors of new players, I ever saw. To this day, I'm sure if I went to her and said, "Let's go hit some balls." she'd have me hitting my backhand as good as I ever did in a few minutes.

I learned nearly all sports from my mom. She was a jock of some repute back in her hometown of Johnstown PA, playing basketball, softball, and touch football with the boys in the neighborhood. The little finger on one of her hands is permanently bent from a football injury. She's the one who taught me how to throw and kick a football, shoot a jumper and dribble, catch throw and hit a baseball. I was always amazed at her ability to do all of that; none of the other moms did!

The other big thing I learned from mom was a love of music. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in her lap, listening and singing along to a record of hymns from Tennessee Ernie Ford. To this day, when I hear his voice on a record from an oldies station, I always think back to that time. As a result of those sing alongs, I really struggle to sit quietly and just listen to music. I always want to join in

Thanks Mom! You taught me a lot and I hope I've grown up to be the man you wished for.

My Bride

I also want to tell you about my bride who, in my not so humble opinion, is the best mom I've ever seen.

She seems to strike the perfect balance with all of the kids in our blended family. She isn't over-bearing although she is very clear about her feelings on important topics. She will forgive everything and yet has no problem holding her kids accountable for their actions. She wished her children to have perfectly normal lives and took time every year to explain that she expected far greater things from them in terms of leadership and behavior. (I saw eyes roll more than once but I know deep down, they believed and agreed with everything she was saying.) 

She is also a terrific step-mom which is one of the toughest jobs there is. Her step kids know how much she loves them, and how much she expects of them, too.

My bride's incredible parenting skills have made me a far better parent than I ever was before. Thanks, baby! Once again, you've made me a better man.


Three weeks from today, June 1, I'm riding in the annual Tour de Cure fundraiser for Diabetes. My goal is to raise $2000 for that cause and I need your help.  So far, I'm just short of $1500. If you could make a donation, I'd sure appreciate it! As little as $5 can be donated by clicking on the link below.  Much obliged!

Thursday, April 17, 2014


I know, I know, I haven’t written a bloody thing for months.  I feel badly about it, too, knowing that BOTH my readers keep going to my site hoping against hope that I’ve finally written something.

It’s been a long cold winter in the Old Dominion; even had snow after my birthday (March 19) which is an incredible rarity. But winter finally seems to be behind us as the forsythia is blooming, daffodils have poked their heads up and the trees all have buds. Bradford pear trees are in bloom, too.
Bradford pear tree - Who was he?

Last weekend, it didn’t even rain! I was able to get a bike ride in both days. It was glorious, except for the hills of course. It was even windy one day but I was so happy to be out riding that I pretended like it didn’t piss me off. (It did but I grinned my way through it.)

I’ve been busy

I know that everyone says that but this time it’s true. I hit the ground running, or traveling, the first week of January and ended up on the road every week but one in the first two months of the year. That makes it really hard to keep up with so many things and when something has to give, it winds up being this blog. It’s a creative outlet for me and, since I don’t really consider myself to be all that creative, I leave it alone until I have something that’s just pushing to get out. (I’m not saying I have something now, it’s just the guilt has built up to a point where I have to write in order to keep my balance.)

How much travel have I had? Since my last post, I’ve been to: Southern California (twice) Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando (twice) Cincinnati, Winchester VA, and Austin TX.  All that and it still wasn’t enough to keep my status with American Airlines; not that I’m bitter. Maybe I’ll catch them again this year along with Delta.
Climb aboard!

So, what’s been going on outside of work?

In the woodshop, I’ve been building a fireplace mantel for a friend of mine. He’s the host of a regular poker game that I’ve played in for almost 20 years and he and his wife approached me about building this for them. Having not had a project for a while, I was very excited about doing it. We agreed on a design pretty quickly and I’ve set to work on a couple of weekends. At this point, the construction is complete and I’ll be applying the finish to it this coming weekend, installing next weekend.  Pictures to come.

My pool game has been pretty good. I returned to league play last fall and the team I ended up with for the regular season really meshes well. So much so, that one of the players changed his mind about taking the summer off and hung in for the next session. I’ve been dedicated about getting at least one serious practice session each week and the results have been solid.  I’m looking forward to playing in the VA State 9 ball championships in July, thinking I might have a chance to make some noise. (That’s only because I can talk loudly, of course.)
Wait that's a snooker table!

Cycling? Well, if I hadn’t purchased a new trainer for a Christmas gift for myself this year, I wouldn’t have gotten any seat time. Spinning on it is pretty mindless although I am able to catch up on the New York Times on my iPad while riding.

The weather was truly dreadful January and February. I managed to get 2 days of riding outside during that time, and 3 more days in March for a total of 150 miles. The good news is, the long range forecast for April is solid and I’m hoping to commute to work a few times and build up my base miles again.

Why? Well, it’s that time of year again. The Tour de Cure takes place June 1 up in Northern VA and I’m riding 108 miles as a fundraiser for Diabetes. Want to donate? See the link below to donate as little as $5. If I don’t get my base miles in, that ride is going to be ugly because it’s got about 7,000 feet of climbs in one 45 mile stretch, up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yep, it’s a real ride and when you’re not a real rider, it shows. (If you can't wait to donate, here's the link

Riding last Weekend

I have to share this story from last weekend. It was Saturday and I was just itching to get out. I jumped on the bike with a plan to ride about 35 miles along a couple of my usual routes.

About an hour in, I’m riding along Pin Hook road which is a nice 2 lane road that winds around for about 2 miles with some rollers. Cruising along about 16 miles an hour, I see a car approaching in my mirror just as I’m entering a blind curve that goes uphill. I swing out to take the lane and keep the driver from crowding me. I can see that she isn’t slowing down and suddenly, she swings out across the double yellow line.

Just as she gets even with me, a Ford F150 appears in the other lane, coming
Looks larger coming right at you!
toward us. Now, the speed limit here is 45 so the closing speed is pretty fast. The driver of the truck sees the car coming right at him so he stomps on the breaks and eases as far to the right as he can, putting his wheels almost in the ditch. The lady passing me, whips in front of me missing my front tire by about a foot and the truck by about the same amount.

I holler, “Are you CRAZY?!” as loudly as I can, shaking my head. Evidently she is because about 100 yards up the road, she comes to stop in the middle of the road. (I’m thinking she wants to apologize for scaring the shit out of me.)

As I approach the car, with all the windows rolled down, she starts yelling at me about how I put her in a bad spot. I point out, fairly calmly for me, that she made the decision to pass where there was no room to do it and had put all 3 of us in danger with that move. I said this as I was passing her car, continuing up the road.
I was about 100 yards ahead of her when she accelerates behind me and then passes again ON ANOTHER BLIND CURVE! When she gets up next to me, she slows down to scream at me, “Like you’ve never done that!”

I glared at her and yelled, “You’ve just done it, twice, and there’s another car coming you dumbass!” Sure enough, another car was approaching and she had to whip in front of me again just missing both me and the approaching car for the second time.

I could see her waving wildly at me in the mirror as she drove off. That’s also when I saw the irony in the situation.

Her car had Tea Party vanity license plates; you know them, the group that exhorts everyone to take care of their own responsibilities and, therefore, have smaller government. 
We don't need no stinking laws!
Evidently, personal responsibility is not practiced by all members of that party. I only wish I could have gotten the license number. She’d have been in a heap of trouble.  Hmmmm. Maybe I do need to get one of those GoPro cameras…….

I do find myself looking back at this occurrence and wondering what kind of person does this? Everyone is entitled to making a mistake; I think most people tend to drive in a state of unconscious competence most of the time. Cyclists don’t register in the minds of a lot of folks, which is what causes most of the problems. But she saw me, that’s why she swung out to pass and give me enough room. After realizing what was happening, she took evasive action and avoided a collision. (I’m guessing the driver of the pickup needed fresh underwear based solely on his expression; abject terror is unmistakable.)

The second interaction was just totally out of line trying to justify the action, and then to do it again? I hope I don’t see this car again but I ride that area frequently. Maybe I can get a license number next time.

Now on the Good Things!

I’m a big fan of the life choice, Do Good Things! Here’s your chance to help the country out and do a good thing. Did you know that diabetes affects at least 10% of the US population? Thirty Million people may have it and most don’t know it. The Tour de Cure is a big fundraiser, focused on finding a cure to this killer. (It’s also a slow killer for many people, contributing to heart and kidney disease. That makes it very costly, adding billions of dollars to our country’s health care costs.) I guarantee you know someone that is diabetic or pre-diabetic. Let’s help figure out a way to end this disease and soon.  I’ve made a big donation myself, my company matched mine and I’m asking you to make one, too.

Do yourself a favor, skip buying lattes for the next month, drink water, and donate 
the money to this cause. You’ll lose weight, help the country and feel good about it.  Please?

Until next time, keep two wheels, or more if applicable, on the ground!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Holidays and other sorts of weird stuff

It’s that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Some people are working regular hours while others are off until the 2nd. Still others, like me, are working some days and not working others – a mishmash of working and not working.

For this blog, I’m getting over a case of writer’s block; I just couldn’t come up with anything to write about for the past couple of months. When combined with a very busy time at the office, it equates to no blog posts.  Sorry to both my faithful readers!
I think I’ve got enough little things to write about and make a decent post, or at least something that will pass as one. Let’s get started.

Phil Robertson
So what if I think they're sinners?
We all are, according to the Bible!


My first thought when I started to hear about his was, “Has America become that shallow, that this is a news story?” Even as the words were streaming across the screen in my brain, I was nodding to myself. I don’t know what else I would expect. With 24 hour entertainment stations, poorly disguised as news stations, anything that jumps out of the ordinary is going to be a big story. (Victoria’s Secret model fart caught on interview – film at 11!)
I just pooted.

For those of you who haven’t followed the story, this man is the patriarch of a family that makes duck calls used by hunters to attract the birds for hunting. The family has become the starring cast of a reality show called Duck Dynasty. The show, which airs on A&E, covers everything they do in their everyday life, including the partaking of a number of family meals together. These scenes often include the blessing of the meal in prayer led by Phil and he has stated a number of times, over the five years the show has been on, how important his faith is to him.

We were rich Christians before the show!
In an interview with GQ magazine, Phil was quoted making some offensive comments about gay men, intimating that homosexuality is in the same vein as bestiality. These suggestions were based on his study of the Bible.

The best selling book, ever.
He also explained that he had hung around with black people all his life, having come from a white trash background, and that he never saw them unhappy because their faith kept them from getting the blues and, besides, he also didn’t see any kind of racism being practiced on them.
  In Louisiana! Huh!

What was most surprising to me was the vehemence with which his fan base reacted when A&E announced that he was suspended from the show for opinions and comments that might be construed as offensive.

The first salvo seemed to be around the notion that A&E was wrong for taking the man off for his religious beliefs. I thought this showed how little people comprehend what they’re reading or hearing. He’s allowed to think and believe whatever he wants, it was what he said that was the problem. I mean, if he was a Muslim and stated that non-believers in the faith of Islam were scum of the earth and should be killed, would that be okay? Since it was based on his religion, and all that?  I’m guessing probably not.

The next attack was based on Phil’s right to Freedom of Speech. Folks were quoting the US Constitution as being the basis for allowing him to remain on the air.
It is okay to yell "Theater"
in a crowded fire house.
What was interesting in this case was, pointing out that this right has to do with what folks can say about their government didn’t seem to make any dent in the voice of public opinion. You really can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater because someone may be hurt by the rush of people leaving. And yet, this huge group of folks apparently thinks that it is okay and their right to do so is protected by the Constitution. 

This second group was also pointing out, on various social media sites, they were going to show A&E who is boss by boycotting all their programming. Finally, it seemed that some were beginning to understand the situation. Phil was dropped as a consequence of what he said, you can drop A&E as a consequence of his being dropped. Welcome to democracy and capitalism in action!

But then, they realized they’d also have to give up History, Disney Channel, and ABC since they’re all under one umbrella.  That one seems to have died down, oddly enough. (Seriously, who wants to miss American Pickers and re-runs of The Bible? Oh irony, thou sting is rich!)

Are you helping or hurting
the average?

My take? I think about the average person I know, in terms of intelligence. I then realize that half the population is not as smart as that person. And I’m no longer confused by all the uproar.

It’s tough breaking in a new boss

Last month, I got a new boss.

We both interviewed for the job and he got it, and got me in the deal, too. It’s awkward since neither of us chose the other. I described it to MB as tenuous; neither of us can really trust the other, just yet.

There comes a time in your career where, unless you’re the CEO, your boss is always going to be younger than you. I hit that line about six or seven years ago, so I’m really okay with this. It’s just that he’s young enough to be my son. It’s awkward for both of us, really. I can’t imagine managing my father, either.

On the plus side, he’s a very intentional person and is working very hard to make this as easy on me as possible. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m a protected class (over 50, white male) or he respects my skills/experience. Either way, the effort is appreciated and is making it easier for me to trust him. Being intentional doesn’t come naturally to me and I have to work hard at it. (Remember, I’m the flailing Buddhist.) I’m focusing on giving him my best efforts in every encounter, deferring to him for decisions, and offering insights into the organization when possible.

There are a number things that he does that I’m never going to understand or enjoy.  Just too many years between us, I suppose.  All the same, I think we’re going to be not just okay but good for each other.

I must be evolving.

The Holidays

When I was a kid, it seemed like it took forever for Christmas to finally arrive. Finally, the last day of school would come and we’d have a couple of days before Christmas morning.

Nowadays, especially this year, Christmas comes storming in like a runaway freight train and I manage to get all my gifts purchased and wrapped with 24 hours to spare.

This year was different because of a late Thanksgiving and a mid-week Christmas day. The retailers have been sweating bullets, too, because of that. The traffic at most malls is over 10% down from last year and all the stores are discounting like crazy in an attempt to get products out the door. (I tend to watch retail trends because I was in that business for over thirty years.)
How malls used to look before the Internet.

Online sales, meanwhile, have been brisk with huge increases over the prior year so that there winds up being a slight overall sales increase for the holiday season. That indicates a healing, although not quite healthy, economy to me which is good news.

The bad news is that retail, as we know it, is slowly dying. I think it’s very close to the tipping point for retailers on whether or not to have retail stores versus online stores. 

A prime location for a store is expensive and with the pricing pressure from online “stores” it’s become increasingly difficult to run a traditional store profitably. Think about that the next time you go look at something in a store and then run home to buy it from someone else online.


I have several friends who struggle what to say to me around this time of year. Since I don’t go to a Christian church, they’re always surprised when I say, “Merry Christmas!

“Wait! You celebrate Christmas?” is something I’ve heard more than once.

“Not in the same way that you do, probably, but yes.”

“What do you mean?” they’ll sometimes ask.

“It’s the birthday of a great man but I don’t believe he’s the son of God. I do believe he was all about love, however, and that’s something I can definitely get behind. So, for me, Christmas is all about love for each other and for the world. I think that’s worth celebrating. Don’t you?”

That usually gets agreement and they wish me Merry Christmas, too.  But I just know they’re shaking their invisible heads as they walk away.
Happy, happy, happy

If I didn’t see you beforehand, Merry Christmas! I also hope that the coming year is just amazing and that everything you do, turns out just the way you want it.  If it doesn’t, I hope it turns out good enough!

One Last Thing

MB and I both have elderly parents. Recently, one of them was treated by a physician who prescribed medications that reacted with each other in such a way as to make the parent nearly catatonic, losing balance, and appearing completely out of it. We actually made the diagnosis ourselves, thanks to Google. The good news is that the parent came back, just fine.

I’m telling this story because I wonder how often this goes on around the country. Doctors, bound by their Hippocratic Oath, aren’t supposed to do this and the pharmacies are supposed to act as a stop gap to ensure it doesn’t happen. And yet it does, I would guess most often in the elderly.

As healthcare consumers, we have the right to ask if there are reasons not to prescribe and take any medication. Folks that grew up in an earlier time, may not know enough to say anything.  Help them out, please!

You may save a life or, at least, extend one.