Notes for Tomorrow

Check target alignment.

Check left-side vertical alignment and weight distribution.

Remember: Don’t break the horizontal with left arm when swinging irons.

Fast hands, slow body turn.


Have fun.

(Forget about all the work to do. The problems to solve, the chores. It is time to be off, time to have fun. It’s a game, dammit.)


Little Changes

Trigger warning. This is a golf post.

I’ve been frustrated the last few weeks (really the last 52) with making progress. So I spent a half-hour with my pro tonight. Two minor changes to my set-up. Reduce the tilt of my shoulders a bit and bring lead shoulder fully over hip and knee. From there he just worked me with a three-quarter swing, just about as slow as I could make it.Shot after shot was crisp and clean, or close to it.

“See? Not much needed to change. I know it feels like you’re not hardly swinging, but look at what you’re doing. Right on the money, great distance (~140 yards), and this is all you need to swing an 8-iron.”

“Actually, it’s the 9.”

“Even better!  This is all the swing you need for a short iron.”

So, two little changes in setup and less backswing. I’ll work on it.

Sometimes it seems that this all that is really needed. A couple of minor changes in how you start and things get better. This has also been the story since starting golf lessons. At the beginning, we worked on some bigger changes set-up followed by reinforcing the good points of my swing. Each lesson after the first two were about the little changes needed. I can look back at the progression and see that.

This is not much different than how I try to teach programming or “coding” as the cool kids and non-programmers call it. We start with a basic model that replicates the most important aspect of what the student (generally a staff member) needs to be able to do and gradually expand on that. Along the way I try to offer tweaks in terms of structure and style that I hope will also increase understanding.

The difference between teaching coding and golf is that teaching is a lot less frustrating.



embrassez un monstre

I get it. In order to get your way you will hold your nose and roll around in the mud with the pigs. You’ve decided to sell your honor and any semblance of commitment to your alleged faith with hopes of getting the SCOTUS appointment you desperately want.

Stephen King wrote about this just about 40 years ago in the short story “Nona.” You embraced Drumpf like the I-guy in this story embraces a monster:

In the dream I see her walking toward me. She is wearing a white gown, almost transparent, and her expression is one of mingled desire and triumph. She comes to me across a dark room with a stone floor and I smell dry October roses. Her arms are held open and to her with mine out to enfold her.

I feel dread, revulsion, unutterable longing. Dread and revulsion because what this place is, longing because I love her.

This is you and he. The revulsion is real enough, but the desire for the control of others is pathological in its intensity, combined with your blind hatred his opponent, overcomes the revulsion. As it overcomes your professed alleged values.

I went to Nona. I went to my life.

Her arms reached around my neck and I pulled her against me. That was when she began to change, to ripple and run like wax. The great dark eyes became small and beady. The hair coarsened, went brown. The nose shortened, the nostrils dilated. Her body lumped and hunched against me. 

I was being embraced by a rat.

“Do you love?” it squealed. “Do you love, do you love?”

Remember: If you kiss monster, it may eat you.

You chose this. Embrace it.


Don’t Think Twice

Dedicated to Paul Ryan, and all the rest who embraced him.
Well, it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, Dude
Even you don’t know by now
And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, Dude
It’ll never do somehow
When the pundits crow at the break of dawn
Look out your window, and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m a-traveling on
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.
And it ain’t no use in turning on your light, Don
The light I never knowed
And it ain’t no use in turning on your light, Don
I’m on the dark side of the road
But I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
But you really did too much talking anyway
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.
So it ain’t no use in calling out my name, Don
Like you never done before
And it ain’t no use in calling out my name, Don
I can’t hear you any more
I’m a-thinking and a-wonderin’ walking down the road
I once loved a candidate,  of really small hands
I gave him my heart but he wanted my soul
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.
So long Donny Trump
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
Goodbye’s too good a word, Dude
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t a-saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

What you don’t know.

You tend to imagine. Often wrongly.

My father’s college students had a hard accepting/imagining him coming home each today to put his feet up and watch reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies while drinking a Dr. Pepper and eating a Snickers bar (a combo he learned from his mother). They, and most everyone else I encountered, had a different image of him than the reality. They assumed his intellectualism never stopped. Nor did they know that his working of crossword puzzles was not only about the pleasure of the challenge, but to always help him with finding and remembering words that substitute for words with an “r” in them.

Of course, this is true for all of us – our home lives are often secret lives, save specific examples like the in the 1990s.

But actually I want to talk about golf.

So I learned something the other day. I had heard and read (forum posts and blog posts) that a player would normally shoot his handicap about 40% of the time. I learned this is wrong. The answer is closer to 20-25% of the time and that is when adjusted for course difficulty.

A player’s handicap is calculated thusly:

  1. Calculate the score differential of the last 20 rounds. This is (Score – Course Rating)*113/Course Slope. (A 92 at my regular course translates to (92-71.7)/134=17.12)
  2. Use the 10 lowest differentials. If you have fewer than 20 rounds, the USGA has table telling you how many scores to use.
  3. Take the average )mean) of the lowest differentials and multiply that by 0.96 and this is your handicap.

So, what does it supposed to mean? What is it supposed to tell you and others?

Basically, on a good day, you will shoot your “target score” or perhaps a bit lower. The Handicap Index is simply a way compare your potential to that of the potential of other golfers, and is normalized to each course. That’s what the target score is – your handicap adjusted to the difficulty of the course you are playing.

The Course Handicap = Handicap Index * (Slope Rating of Tee on Course / 113)  or, in my case, from the white tees at my course, 17.2*134/113=20.4, rounded to 20.

Add the course handicap to the course rating and round, (71.7+20)= 91.7=92. And so on a good day, I should a 92 or bit better, maybe 20-25% of the time according to the USGA. Most of the rest time, the USGA says I should shoot about 2-4 strokes higher. Key word is “most”. Normal distributions suggest on occasion I will shoot even higher especially since my worst scores, half of my most recent 20 aren’t included.

So, if you think about it as a data problem, and its associated math, it’s quite easy to understand that your likelihood of playing to your handicap or hitting your target score is going to have a lot to do (mathematically at least) with the dispersion of your scores. Someone with a great deal of consistency, with scores that vary within a range of  maybe four strokes, will almost always play close to their handicap. For someone like me who has a current range between 88 and 112 (ouch! bad day at a tournament) a really good day is between 88 and 92, a regular day, about 50% of the time 92-96 or so does seem to be realistic. And it comports with my reality. A quarter of the time I do worse.

So, I really should give myself more of a break than I do. Much more of a break. I’ve been thinking all along that I should be playing much better than I do. Of course, I keep trying to, but I should probably try harder to just enjoy.

Celebrating Failure

Much of my life seems to be about from failure to failure, punctuated with a few periods of less obvious failures that most people see as success. It is kind of a harsh view, but I am a tough critic of myself.The simple fact is that I fail a lot. With a little luck, a lot of practice, and when I can muscle up the courage, a lot of self-honesty, I find opportunities to learn in failure.

Today was one of those on the golf course. Of course, it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things, but I tend to assume anything I learn has potential value.

This weekend is men’s club tournament between our club in Powhatan and one of the clubs in Montpelier. It is two-man best-ball match play event, one day each course. Today, I failed to break a 100 due to an occasional inability to get off the tee or general sloppiness. The key was that I did not let it get to me and I just focused on not doing stupid stuff to a better degree than my competitors (as we were pretty evenly matched). This strategy worked well as we were able to win our round.

More importantly, I was able to learn a bit more about my swing and solving problems on the course. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow if I have learned enough.

And this is the way I do things. Sometimes I fail on purpose to see what I can learn. (Of course, one might read this as “I sometimes purposefully do stupid stuff to see what happens and see if I can get out of trouble.”)  In other words I am more interested in learning and enhancing my problem-solving skills than facts and such. That’s not to be dismissive of facts – I use and quote such all the time to the annoyance of people around me.

I like problem-solving.So, generally once I can get out of the moment of unhappiness about failure, I can celebrate it and take a learning from it. Now, some may just say, “Who, your real goal was to win, not a break 100, your score doesn’t matter.” True, really just half-true as my goal is to always shoot as low as I can, consistent with my handicap index or lower. In fact, one of our competitors challenged me on my handicap. Not surprising, I have beautiful swing and adequate distance to be a much better player, I am just wildly inconsistent.

Wildly inconsistent.

(You may have noticed such inconsistency on this blog.)