Are my gym labors finally paying off …?

An unexpected interaction during my semi-regular gym program yielded the kind of feedback that drives you to keep torturing yourself.

Well almost …

After a brisk cardio workout and innumerable pushups (I forgot to count.) in sweaty heat-induced stuffiness, I head for the locker room and my pre-office shower. Wrapped discreetly – and considerately – in a towel cinched at the waist, I headed to the shower.

As I passed a significantly younger gym denizen leaving the showers, he called out, “Now I know who you remind of!”

I stopped and turned, curious and asked, “Who?”

Goldberg“!, he said, “You know, the wrestler.”

I was momentarily stunned. Goldberg? The once-upon-a-time WWF wrestling superstar!?! One of the very, very few wrestling personalities I recognize?!? (Sorry, boys.)

THE Goldberg?!? Wow!!

Holy freakin’ moly!! I wanted to run back out to the gym and do another 10 pushups … maybe flip that huge truck tire from hither to yon, just like all the other pumped up studs do!! Throw in a few dead lifts and power squats … and where did I put heavy bag gloves???

Then I ruined it all.

Instead of basking in the glow of an unexpected compliment and allowing the ‘roid-flavored accolade to soak into my obviously impressive physique, I said the stupidest thing possible in such a situation.

I said, “Really?” … a bit too eagerly, maybe a tad desperate.

“Yeah …”, he said, “Just a lot older.”

“Great …”, I muttered, and shuffled off to shower my deflated ego.

Moral of the Story: Shut up and keep your head down … especially at the gym!

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that perhaps my gym counterpart was simply referring to me from the neck up; was high on highly-concentrated endorphin powder; or legally blind!

There is no evidence to support any of these claims. The observation was entirely free of descriptive limitation, qualification, bribery, mental defect, addiction or fanciful skullduggery!

Bella Vista GC: Where “Relaxing Golf” is an Oxymoron

We have been playing golf for over 30 years, some even longer.  We enjoy and respect The Game.  We love the fresh air and exercise.  We love The Game.  We are considerate and observant of golf’s expectations for efficient play and the condition the the courses we play.

What course would not want us as patrons willing to play and pay?

We have had our bad experiences, usually at the hand of golfers who are not quite so mindful or considerate.  From those experiences, our appreciation for The Game and the correct way to play it has grown.  Ultimately though, our pleasure in playing Golf comes from the enjoyment of playing with good friends on quality golf courses on beautiful days!

However, if you can identify with the pleasures of the game described above, you may want to avoid Bella Vista Golf Club in Gilbertsville, PA!

For my foursome Bella Vista has become a golf course to avoid. The golf course’s current management has completely ruined a very good thing.  And for what?  A customer service approach that emphasizes speed of play over the Enjoyment of Golf!

Don’t rush Tony S. on a golf course!

The Big Aha:  What we did learn was a valuable lesson about the abuses of golf course GPS technology that would make Tony Soprano blanche.  The cart-mounted units allow Big Brother to micro-manage golfers like a incentives-crazed production line supervisor.

Our Experience:  Teeing off at 0824 on a beautiful June morning, we settled in to enjoy a relaxing day on the golf course.

After some early struggles, our round settled in to a nice rhythm. We were playing our round at a pace not unheard of for a Saturday morning in June.  At least in our opinion …

Being well-experienced golfers, we are always mindful of those playing behind us and the drag it can be when waiting around to hit your next shot.  But forcing players – to the point of confrontation – to maintain sight of the group ahead can be subjective and unfair, since several factors can magnify any gaps between foursomes.

On this Saturday, we can claim that at no time were the golfers playing immediately behind us ever standing around and waiting to play a shot.  In fact, when going over the incredible developments of that day, we could not even remember seeing the trailing foursome after the 2nd or 3rd hole.  Only on the 10th tee did we delay our play in the name of Bloody Marys and hotdogs!

Napoleon could marshall at Bella Vista GC

Somewhere around the 5th or 6th hole a wandering Course Ranger (Let’s call him Todd.) approached us and advised that we had a hole-and-a-half open in front of us.  Not a desirable pace, so we agreed to pick it up as best we could.  Again, no golfers waiting behind us. In fact, we could not even see the following foursome.

Fast forward to the 11th hole, when “Todd” approached us again and now DEMANDED that we pick up our pace, claiming that we were holding up the entire flight of golfers behind us.  When we pointed back to the 11th tee, where we had been just minutes before, no golfers were visible.  Yet “Todd” actually claimed that those golfers – invisible to us on the fairway – were “being polite” (whatever that meant) … apparently wearing camouflage and hiding among the bushes and trees!

Camouflage may be the new trend at Bella Vista GC

Apparently a new trend born at Bella Vista GC for “polite golfers” …

When we argued, “Todd” whipped out his iPad and proceeded to show – via a full-color graph – how our pace-of-play was “holding up everyone on the golf course”! So we once again pointed back to the empty 11th tee, and asked him where the hold-up was?

But at least the iPad revealed what the REAL problem was. A data-driven “golf quota”, no doubt fed from cart GPS units to a programmed spreadsheet that fed “Todd’s” tablet and drove him to become a golf course pest of unequaled persistence.

Tony Soprano was right all along! The Authorities could use the cart GPS to harass golfers!

Take out the GPS. I don’t want the FBI tracking us with it.” – Tony Soprano

That’s what I like about you, boss; you are always thinking of the big picture.” Paulie Walnuts Gualtieri.

Then the ridiculous turned unbelievable when “Todd” demanded that we SKIP the par-3 12th hole to bring our pace-of-play up to standard!  We pointedly demurred as we struggled to determine which episode of “The Twilight Zone” we had stumbled into.

Fast forward to the 13th tee after we ignored the “advice” to skip a hole.  And here comes the course superintendent to add in his $0.02, which was more like $4 as he proceeds to argue for 10 minutes.  In other words, interrupting our round to preach about pace-of-play while repeatedly stating that he “hated to be out there” harassing his customers.

By now we were disgusted; could not wait to get out of there; realizing we were playing our last round at Bella Vista GC. We have been spreading the word and this ridiculous story ever since!

But let’s review …

1. Yes, nothing screws up a golf round more than playing behind extremely slow golfers and having to wait continuously to play a shot.

2. Our foursome never saw anyone playing behind us, let alone waiting to hit their shots. Not ONCE anywhere during our round, including the roughly 20 minutes during which we were preoccupied by the lunacy of being accused of slowing down the entire golf course!

3. Pace-of-play is a noble concept. But it needs to be pressed judiciously, not a blind data-driven blip on a graph or spreadsheet!  Think Gabe Kapler pulling Aaron Nola in the 5th inning on Opening Day!

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The dangers of obsessive data-driven management …

4. How do you blame golfers for delaying play when none of the foursomes playing behind are being directly held up by your “slow play”!  If they were, for any length of time, many golfers will either confront you directly or will take the passive-aggressive approach of “hitting up on you”.  Neither occurred this day …

And that’s where we will leave this episode of “The Twilight Show”, Tony Soprano-golfer style.

What we will never do again is play Bella Vista GC. A review of on-line ratings suggest this is not the first time course personnel have made dubious pace-of-play claims that have ruined the good mood, experiences, and monetary investments of area golfers!

Do the smart thing, if you enjoy a relaxing round of golf, and avoid playing at Bella Vista GC in Gilbertsville, PA!

Campaign 2020 Prep

In a moment of rare disappointment, I just tossed a work of fiction in the trash as I found myself rolling my eyes at the hero’s exploits way too often. And no, the book is not worth sharing …

Instead, I will take this time to begin prepping for the upcoming 2020 Democrat Primary campaign season with a historical look into the ancestry of one Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator …

Next in line:

Kamala Harris

… followed by Cory Booker

Philadelphia Soda Tax Reality Check

2017062101025444_DMR_AP3I7328We have not lived in Philadelphia for over twenty years now, but I still work within the city limits. My youngest son finds living in the city more energetic and interesting than our sleepy ‘burb. That’s fine for him, but the methods The City has chosen to fund operations and programs (i.e. taxing people and property more than ever) have made our decision to leave seem all the wiser.

Horror stories abound on how The City has executed its real estate reassessment initiative. Tales of how the Philadelphia Beverage Tax (PBT) has affected the people are far less dramatic, but perhaps more insidious for those who live and work there.

I haven’t really paid much attention to the dynamics and effects of the PBT, aside from noticing a 33% increase at the office vending machine and changing my drink-buying habits accordingly. Instead of laying out $2 for an 18.5 ounce bottle (formerly $1.50) of Turkey Hill’s magic ice tea elixir, I began to lug 64 ounce bottles into work, purchased near home at a savings of over $4 per bottle based on volume.

I guess you tend not to think about such things until you are gobsmacked through real-life experience. So after that adjustment was made, I never gave the issue another thought. Not my problem anymore …

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Then a few weeks ago, I forgot a critical ingredient to my latest healthy lunch fad (Greek yogurt*, honey, fresh berries, granola* … * low sugar options) at my Philadelphia work location. Granola – the critical missing ingredient – brings it all together.

So I trudge over to the local ShopRite to granola-up and – being low on precious Turkey Hill DIT – I decide to check on availability and price. After over a year of not buying ridiculously taxed, unsweetened drinks, the horror must have faded from memory.

For home use, I buy the full gallon (128 oz.) version of Turkey Hills best. Simple math and you can see where this is headed.

At home (Acme Markets) I pay $2.99 a gallon. (Sale price this week $1.99!) As I wander the ShopRite aisles, I eventually find the object of one of my obsessions … at $5.12 a gallon!!!

Pretty sure I now have PTSD (Philadelphia Tax Stress Disorder) …

DISCUSSION POINTS:

(I don’t pretend to have all the answers … just questions, reactions, and observation … and maybe one solution)

1. How does such a phenomena NOT affect the food shopping habits of Philadelphia families, the profitability of City food markets, and the tax revenue projections?

I know my shopping habits would be affected if still living in Philly. People are not likely to shop twice for groceries just to avoid an intrusive tax. More likely is the obvious solution of moving all grocery shopping outside the City limits.

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2. Does the tax impact the economically disadvantaged in Philadelphia disproportionately?

It’s easy for most to hop in the car and head over the City Limits to shop in suburban soda tax havens. But what about the poor? Do they shoulder the disproportionate bulk of the tax burden, when bad habits are hard to break and the corner bodega is the only short-term food source?

3. It’s difficult to deny the health benefits of laying off sugary foods and drinks. This is how Government justifies taxing cigarettes. So what happens to the economic goals of the tax if the citizenry wised up and changes their drinking habits?

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Philadelphia levies a 1.5 cent/gallon vs. the above

Frankly, this will end up being a win-win for the City of Philadelphia, regardless of where actual soda-tax revenue falls.  If the citizenry fails to make healthier choices, the city cleans up.  If they are successful in changing their habits and sugary drink sales – and the taxes – dry up, the city will claim Healthy Choices Victory!

4. If the selling point is #3 above, why are drink distributors (who actually pay the tax to The City) allowed to price the tax across its entire product line … whether the drink contains sugar or not?

This really rubs the wrong way! Sugar tax? Fine … So why are Philadelphians and visitors paying the tax on drinks without sugar?!?

One might understand if the tax 1.5-cent tax was applied proportionately over sugar and non-sugar drinks. But my calculations indicate that the full tax is being paid on non-sugary drinks as well, which should at the very least be considered a fraudulent act on the consumers!

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Do you see a common thread?

5. A “Big Aha” was revealed last week, when John Dougherty – leader of the Philadelphia chapter (Local 98) of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – was revealed to have supported the sugary drink tax as a way of punishing the local Teamsters affiliate for running a political ad during the 2015 Philadelphia election that portrayed Dougherty in a negative light.

The really funny twist to this curiosity is that apparently Johnny Doc targeted the wrong union!

Now I doubt Dougherty carried the day for the tax-happy leaders of Philadelphia; but it is an odd twist to see labor unions trying to stick it to each other using a general tax issue!

6. This discussion will become much more interesting if reliable grocery sales data were shared alongside the figures for actual beverage-tax collections. Both The City and grocery industry affiliations have been lobbing claims back and forth about the health of the city’s grocery industry as affected by the tax.

Frankly, I would be shocked if the figures did not show a significant decline in grocery sales in the city (as adjusted for the ridiculously high beverage tax). I would be even more surprised if The City ever admitted as much!

7. Finally, as recent as last year the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were willing to package $5.7 billion in tax breaks and incentives to mega-billion-dollar Amazon in a failed attempt to get the corporation to locate its eastern headquarters there. This in addition to huge financial packages to keep other corporate entities, such as Comcast and some Philadelphia sports teams in the city, and other smaller real estate abatement used to attract development.

Putting aside smaller development deals, and recognizing the civic commitments by those “such as” corporations named above, would it be too much to ask potential mega-tax-break corporations to pick up the tab for an initiative like full-day kindergarten as a legitimate giveback to taxpayer-funded corporate largesse?

In reality such a giveback would benefit employees of those city-based corporate entities by ensuring more attractive public education alternatives. This would be – in effect – an indirect employer-provided benefit, especially for those younger corporate employees with young children or expecting them in their future.

To me, it sounds a lot better than punishing those without the wherewithal or strength to break an unhealthy and expensively taxed bad habit.

Free Speech, the NFL, … and what about Security Clearances

To be honest, my nose was never out-of-joint over the protests by NFL players during img_0042-1the  National Anthem.  But in the interest of honesty, I will admit I have been a fan of the NFL (Fly, Eagles fly!) since the 1960s.

It’s not that I agree or enjoy watching million-dollar athletes taking a knee or raising a fist in protest of a Country that enables their lucrative careers. There are quite simply expressions that madden me much, much more, such as the burning of U.S. flags.  However, I do reserve a special level of rage for the sickly Westboro Baptist clowns, who are fond of expressing their Rights in the most insensitive ways at the most inappropriate times.

Maybe I prefer reserving my wrath for the greatest threats to Free Speech. The rage and discomfort we endure is the price one must pay for belief in our Constitution and for faith in the world’s most successful free and open republic.

Amendment I, United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Free Speech requires an appreciation for Advanced Citizenship in the U.S. of A.  The more centered and focused you remain on the guiding principle of Free Speech, the more likely you will recognize that such citizenship sometimes requires herculean self-control when someone expresses thoughts and ideas in ways that infuriate.

It’s a concept a lot of people have a difficult time accepting, whether the issue involves a student opting to sit for the Pledge of Allegiance or a couple of knuckleheads burning an American flag.  And sometimes – maybe at when it’s needed most – a remarkable moment unfolds in a way that’s unexpected and ultimately memorable!

And yes, when Rick Monday swooped to the rescue of the national standard, he too was expressing his Right to Free Speech as well!  He spoke with his actions.

Advanced Citizenship – a level of patriotism fewer Americans seem to achieve of late – demands the ability to grit our teeth and chalk your outrage up to a higher national calling. Not that such a thing makes the demonstration any easier to accept. Consider these challenges a test … an opportunity to exercise your appreciation for the ability of those with whom you disagree to exercise their Free Speech, not matter how infuriating.

And no … the excuse that “They do it!” is insufficient.  Let their actions define their character and Patriotism. Don’t let your reactions negatively define yours.

Keep in mind, it’s the lesser of us who choose to shout down or violently suppress Free Speech. It’s a tactic favored by those who would rather tell us what to think or how to vote at the point of whatever weapon might be handy. White supremacists and elements of the Far Left, such as Antifa, have much in common in that regard.

In the case of the National Football League, their recent misguided attempts to rein in the pre-game protests in the face of withering public opinion (more free speech about Free Speech) actually exacerbated the problem. My opinion is that the Players would likely have allowed the protests to die had they not been confronted in such a direct and public way.

But even as I encourage a daunting level of civic sainthood, I cannot give those Westboro Baptist idiots a sliver of accommodation. They are vile, mean-spirited, and unworthy – in my estimation – of even being called Americans.

Yes, if nothing else, I am a flawed American. But I can live with that …

There are nuanced limitations to this Freedom of Speech thing.

  1. You cannot scream “Fire!” in the proverbial crowded theatre.
  2. You cannot express thoughts or opinions under the name of your employer, especially if they serve to somehow conflict with business or embarrass them among consumers of their products.
  3. You cannot defame an individual or organization with false statements. A student’s free speech rights are limited somewhat while in school.
  4. You cannot openly exhort people to violence.
  5. At events deemed to be National Special Security Events (e.g. political conventions, inaugurations, Super Bowl), your Speech can be restricted to specified protest zones.

John Brennan

former CIA Director John O. Brennan

The recent hullabaloo over the National Security clearance of John Brennan, former head of the CIA, appears to fall into several of the above exceptions. Brennan’s security clearance was revoked by the Trump Administration, likely at the direction of President Trump, for – among other things – making wild, unsupported accusations of Treason on the part of The President.

My rationale for accepting the Trump Administration’s action against Brennan comes from the following:

  1. Although precedent has set the standard that former National Security officials keep their clearances in order to assist succeeding officials in consultation during sensitive events, the same precedent forms a link (in my mind anyway) between the former officials and the current Administration. In some ways, the relationship mimics the employee-employer relationship ,,, in a quasi kind of way. If the former official becomes an embarrassment to the Government, the Government should exercise their authority to withdraw the privilege of access to sensitive information.
  2. Brennan was spouting a lot of unsubstantiated viewpoints that in essence defamed the Government and The President. It would be impossible for anyone to successfully argue that Brennan – or anyone else – deserves to retain such access as they openly and continuously cause embarrassment and suggest treason unencumbered by any attempt to factually document the accusation.
  3. Yes, rescinding such access is a bit retaliatory in that it can affect Brennan’s ability to benefit monetarily. Yet that very sentiment underscores in a way that quasi-employer-employee exception to Free Speech. Ask yourself if any Administration (the quasi-employer) should allow a pointed and factually unreliable critic the ability to earn money using the very information managed, controlled, and heavily relied upon by the current Government? Seems like a slam dunk …
  4. Removing his security clearance does nothing to restrict Brennan’s Free Speech. He can still appear in forums, on cable TV, in print media. Brennan can say anything he wants, subject to the restrictions the rest of us are expected to observe. He might not make as much money doing it as he did before (in theory), but nothing about removing his clearance affects his ability to express his views.

And there you have the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of a beautiful Freedom instilled upon a Free People to ensure their freedom prospers and perhaps spreads to freedom lovers the World over!

Destination Wedding: The Other California Wine Country

In 2011 Carol and I trekked to Southern California to celebrate my brother, Pat’s retirement.  We spent a significant part of our trip pursuing our primary objective … several days of golf and touristy behavior within and about the Pebble Beach resort on the Monterey Peninsula.

That required a good bit of road travel between the Los Angeles area and Carmel/Monterey.  One of the impressions from that journey was the exponential growth in vineyards well south of Napa Valley – the commercial heart of California Wine Country – since our previous trip to the Left Coast about 12 years earlier.

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On past trips to The Golden State we never took the opportunity to enjoy California Wine Country.  Counterproductive it would be to enjoying a fine winely glow, when dragging one’s underage kids around with you …

Now our kids are grown … and as luck would have it one of our Shortall (West) nephews was taking the marital plunge with the festivities taking place in Temecula, California.  Sixty miles north of San Diego and ninety miles south of LA, Temecula touts itself as the center of California’s South Coast wine country.

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The vino was superb that day, my friend …

 

Temecula was untouched by the wild fires that hit parts of Napa prior to and during our December 2016 trip.  In early December the Thomas fire, one of the largest in California history, began in the hills near Ventura.  Smoke from those fires were clearly visible throughout our trip.

With both families established California locals, this was not much the “destination weddings” for them, but for us refugees from a rapidly winterizing region of the mid-Atlantic coast, it was Destination enough!

24312755_10102456606203576_5267595914899467934_nThe happy couple selected the Mount Palomar Winery as the site for their forever nuptials.  And frankly, it was quite the venue!  The scenery from atop the hills on which the main event took place was spectacular.  For a late afternoon ceremony followed by drinks and hors d’ourves set close to the ceremonial stage, one was treated to beautiful daylight vistas, a spectacular sunset, and as night fell, an immensely large and vivid moon rise over distant mountains!

This wedding venue rivaled the trip we took to the beaches of Nags Head, North Carolina for another family wedding.  Both venues were spectacular in their own right.  Comparisons are unfair due to the dramatic difference of each location; but no one can argue that each made their respective affairs indelibly memorable!

Mount Palomar provided a hilltop venue for the nuptials, which included a screen-saver background of a gorgeous Southern California day with the surrounding hills in the distance.  Afterwards, guests took the opportunity for scenic photos while snacking and imbibing the local vintage in salute of the happy couple.

The post-wedding reception was held in a spacious barrel room, the party surrounded by racked wine barrels (attempts to tap several failed).  A setting unlike any other wedding we have attended.

And yes, the food was as good as was the wine!

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Add in the opportunity to spend an extended vacation with close family and squeeze in a Philadelphia Eagles game (December 10) against a strong Los Angeles Rams team, and you have what was likely the BEST destination wedding I can remember!

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The play that could have cost Philly a SuperBowl! (Apologies for the gratuitous football reference …)

 

 

 

The Night They Killed the Donut

I don’t want to talk about it. I am traumatized.

At the Phillies game watching them get eviscerated by the Milwaukee Brewers …

Went to Federal Donuts and find out the only chicken they serve now is on a roll!!!!

WTF!!!

Used to be … Federal Donuts would give you a halved breast (2 pieces) and a drumstick accompanied by their delicious donut.  EVERYTHING was delicious!  Now it’s a chicken sandwich, take it or leave it.  So I left it.

Got two donuts and stomped off in crushing disappointment. Procured an Italian sausage sandwich to ease my pain. Never a disappointment … #wheresthechikin