I suck at playing golf.

I seriously do.

I never know who is going to show up. Or rather, whose swing is going to show up.

Sometimes I feel convinced that I have a beautiful swing. It is on a perfect plane with 3:1 tempo and strikes through the ball cleanly and crisply. Unfortunately, most often the ball seems to disagree. Personally, I would like to believe that the great majority of balls I hit are defective. Maybe bipolar. Probably.

  • Since Christmas 2015, I have hit approximately 12,000 golf balls at driving ranges.
  • I have had eight (maybe nine) hour-plus lessons with an excellent pro.
  • I have played over 60 18-hole rounds of golf:
    • 47 of these have been tracked and posted with Game Golf so far.
    • All eligible scores have been posted for my handicap.
  • I have hit uncounted chips and flop shots in the backyard.
  • I have read a lot. I mean a lot. Half a dozen books, 100s of pages of forum discussions on golf issues.

And I still suck. Sure, I am officially a “bogey golfer” shooting in the 90s. I’ve broken 90 exactly once, and on a really bad day have shot as high as 112 (in a tournament, no less) but after licking my wounds and spending two hours at the range, turned in a 92 the next day. My handicap has dropped from 25.1 to 17.1 , but since the handicap index is even more artificial than an FTE, and only representative of your best 40% or so of your recent rounds, it is hard for me to get too excited. Especially since most days I don’t seem to play close to that. (Nor should I, really, but that’s not the way the male mind works, is it?)

What is it about this silly, pointless, game of chasing a little white ball around a great big meadow that gets under my skin?

Maybe I need new clubs.

While possible, I don’t actually think it is my clubs. Or the balls I use. I think it is a damnably hard game, one that is harder still for someone with only balance nerve intact, anger issues, and a general lack of coordination. I am also rhythm-deaf and have a horrible sense of tempo and timing. (Except in humor. My timing is perfect there, except when it is off by a few years since I am often ahead of my time.)

Golf is hard.

After 27 disappointing holes on Saturday, I played in a scramble at Quantico Marine Corps Base in a fundraiser for the Young Marine Foundation. Since it was team effort where  we would each play from the result of last best shot, individual score wasn’t kept, and all I had to do was contribute. No stress. And my swing really did feel perfect much of the day – and the results very often matched.

Maybe the difficulties are in my head. I need to better manage the expectations I have for myself and just enjoy the experience. The problem is that I find it hard to enjoy not being awesome. Or good. Or even adequate.I really need to learn

Learning to solve problems, or solving problems to learn?

This most excellent post by Lee Skallerup Bessette (@readywriting) touches on a key aspect my life.

I can (I believe) learn anything to solve a problem that matters to me, or that I really, really want to solve. When I bought my first PC in 1980, I knew it was important to learn….but I didn’t have a problem to solve. Plus given a mere 8k of RAM, and 8K of ROM with Microsoft BASIC loaded, the available solutions for interesting problems were kind of narrow. Again, in 1984 when I bought an Apple IIc, things weren’t much different. Much better tools and software, but still only a narrow scope of problems to solve…and even narrower were those that fit my current life in the infantry.

In graduate school, things changed. The concept of using databases to manage museum collections was a fascination. Desktop publishing was also of interest. Remember Ventura Publisher? A desktop publisher that used SGML tags – the progenitor of HTML.

The act of formatting and printing my thesis prepared me, completely unsuspecting, for a life on the web. And it made me an early standout in building dynamic web reports for institutional research in 1994.

Moving away from computers, the same thing has applied. If I have a problem to solve, I can learn it. The question is just one of how well I can learn it. I’m pretty good with with woodworking, middling with metal and welding. Electricity and plumbing are not difficult. Cars, I don’t mess with anymore as my they have gotten too complex (read: expensive) and I have had some spectacular failures along the way to success. I learned how to paint well enough to earn a degree, despite no prior evidence of ability. THe same with jewelry-making and pottery. They were problems to be solved – how to represent, how to make?

But, to just learn something to learn something, if it requires more than just reading, I am afraid it won’t happen. This used to be primarily a lack of direction and motivation. Now I can at least blame it on recognizing the time is the most precious resource I have.

Despite that, I waste a lot of time and money trying to solve the problem of golf. Or rather the near-total lack of ability to play well.

Lee’s post strikes a nerve. I’ve always admired her writing since I came across it, but this essay really is familiar to me. I appreciate it a great deal as I am thinking through a new set of challenges that have come my way since they may involve trading a short-term success and completion for a greater success in the long run if I have to bite the bullet and learn something new.

Or even just choosing to learn something new. For fifteen years I have tried to encourage my team to feel free to spend time to learn and try new things. Kind of tough in a bureaucracy with too much work and too few staff, but learning new things has multiple benefits, particularly in opening and expanding the way one thinks.

Emil Faber said it best, “Knowledge is Good.”

On Twitter, I am OLD

At least some people think so. From what I can tell, at age 54 I am still in only the oldest 40% of users. I guess that worsens next year to the oldest 25%. But still, I am not sure why that makes me old.

Perhaps it is my witty comments that are a natural for Twitter. I have always been described as pithy, so Twitter is a natural fit. Perhaps it just seems that I have been on Twitter for so very long that of course I am old.

Maybe not.

It is probably just my memory and enjoyment of music and movies across the decades (except of course the 90s, pretty much a lost decade).

It’s just that growing up through the seventies and being a college student, soldier, college student, and grad student through the eighties gives me lot to remember. All the questions in life can be answered through either broadway musicals or classic rock. Most all the questions are in American Folk.

Dear America

Dear America, I’m sorry, but we forgot.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,”

When we invite the tired, and the poor, they are likely to come. When we invite them to our home, they deserve to be welcomed.

Dear America, I’m sorry, but we forgot.

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

The huddled masses come from everywhere. They don’t always look like us. They don’t eat the same foods as we. They don’t always pray as we. Just as we were different upon the shores of America, so often are they.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Dear America, I’m sorry, but we forgot. We were once homeless and tempest-tossed and longing for a place to call home. We came as strangers, acting like conquerors, barely able to survive. Those who struggle through the storm know only that the chaos of storm cares little for who is in its path. Not rank, nor wealth, skin color, or faith; all are subject to the death and indignities of storm.

Dear America, don’t be a stranger – to our past or to our future.

How to Apply for a Job…and be considered

  1. Read the ad for comprehension.
  2. Read the damn ad again. Pay attention to the job requirements.
  3. If the ad says “Fill out the application, do not write ‘See Resume’,” DO THIS. Failing to do this means your application will be branded “NO HISTORY.”
  4. Understand that every software application, specific location, environment, operating system, and skill is a KEYWORD.
  5. Ensure that EVERY keyword is found somewhere in your experience or SKA list.
  6. Understand your application either by a bot or by human with bot-like emotions in HR with one point for each required skill or experience. If those are not evident to a non-expert in your field, you receive a ZERO.
  7. Understand the hiring manager (me) cannot elevate your application if required skills are not discernible to a field expert and justifiable to the bot.
  8. Before submitting your application, read the job ad AGAIN, SIDE BY SIDE with your application.
  9. Do not submit until you have repeated items 1-8.
  10. Understand this final thing – I have to interview everyone at or above the score I choose. If I have 50 applicants, with five at each of 10 point levels, and you are an 8, do you really think I am going to interview 15 people just to give you a chance? Probably not.
  11. Repeat steps 8 & 9.
  12. Submit. Pray. Wait. Despair.

Sister Act III

….in which a young novice-to-be is turned away from the convent and told to pay off her student loans before she can take her vows. 

Enter a gaggle of nuns singing :

what do you do with student loans like Maria’s ?
How do you make her say, “I will pay and pay and pay.”
How do you find student loan forgiveness for a nun?

I guess she could become a Presyterian (PCUSA) and get debt forgiveness.

I guess she could also find a sugardaddy or would sugarfather be more appropriate?

And just how many rosaries must you pray to be forgiven $18,000 in student debt?

I could go on (and in my head, I have).

The Boy and the Sea Lion

One day in summer  2000 (my 38th summer, Zachary’s ninth), the boy and I spent a marvelous day together on the coast. We got up early, packed the car, and drove to Devil’s Lake, the home of the shortest river in the world. We spent some time there tossing spinners and crankbaits to no avail. Mid-morning we moved on down the coast to Newport and the Yaquina Bay where we fished off the docks.

We had fun pulling up sculpins, perch and the occasional crab. It was a blast. We were on a heavy-duty floating dock about 14 inches above the water always for the bite that would be a bigger fish – a keeper. That never came, but something else did.

We were jigging our lines when a dark fin breached the water less than four feet from the dock. “Zachary. Look! What is that?” “A shark?” “No, look again.” Just then the sea lion’s head broke the surface of the water and we saw that it had cruised by on its side.

The large mammal went by and we continued fishing. I started having difficulty with one of my reels and decided to replace it. I told Zach I was going walk up to the car and swap reels. He said he would be fine and as I was about halfway to the car I heard him shout and turned to see him pull up a nice 7 or 8 inch surf perch. I got to the car, made the switch and started back to find Zach coming up the ramp. His hands were empty and he was noticeably pale and shaken.

“What happened?”

“The sea lion tried to get me. “

“What? Come on, don’t lie to me.”

“I’m serious. He came back and by and I threw the perch to him and he dove after it. Then he came back up and tried to get on the dock.”

There was nothing to do but believe him. The local sea lions had been known to take halibut out of the hands of fishermen as they posed for pictures on the docks.

Well, we went back and fished for a while before taking a break for lunch at the nearest KFC. We continued north to Neskowin and played golf at Hawk’s Creek, a wicked nine-hole course on the coast up into a small valley in the Coastal Range. We had a great time playing, picking up with a local man playing alone. As a threesome we found the course shoe-horned into a valley with a blind par three and some very tight holes with no place to bail out. Our scores were not particularly respectable, but it was fun.

Continuing north, we stopped on the Little Nestucca river and fished again. No fish this time, only a lone harbor seal that zipped back and forth under the water in front of us. Occasionally it would pop up and look at us from what it apparently considered to be a safe distance.

We stopped one last time on the way home. Driving east through the mountains we followed an obvious trout stream. Finally, unable to contain our interest and impatience any longer we stopped on the side of the road. Grabbing our fly rods for the first time that day, we climbed down through the bushes to find ourselves beside a dark pool more than large enough for the two of us to fish as novice fly fishermen. During our vacation in August, Zachary had become offended that certain rivers were closed to him for fishing since he was not a fly fisherman. He had begged me for a fly rod and this was his first time to use it in water.

Zach whipped the water for a while before snapping his fly off. While he was retying, I caught a four-inch cutthroat of tremendous beauty and spirit. That was my first time catching a fish with a dry fly and it was delightful! I had owned my rod since I was thirteen – it was a Christmas present from my maternal grandparents. I had never become a fly fisherman but had used it with a spinning reel as an ultralight many times.

That was our day. The day a sea lion tried to eat my son.