Sunday, May 20, 2012

My New BFF

Working for the General has many advantages; one of which is the freebies which often come our way.  Last week brought the opportunity to spend a day at the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament, a PGA event held annually in Irving, TX - literally five minutes from the office.  GE had a skybox at the 17th hole, with an excellent view of the tee box and since this was a par 3, a decent view of the green.  A hearty lunch and dinner were provided and of course, lots of cold beverages. 

Right when we came in (10am), Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els were teeing off.  We hung around until Padraig Harrington, Keegan Bradley (St. John's alum) and Rory Sabbatini went through around 4pm. The other Rory and Tiger were not in for the tournament.

One of the highlights was when Charles Howell III came by our box and chatted with us for about 45 minutes.  He had just finished his round (shooting a minus two) and was in good spirits, offering advice, signing autographs and posing for pictures,  He is the one in green, I am the giddy schoolgirl. 

Only after he left did we pull up his Wikipedia page and discover that the affable Chas has made over $22 million playing golf in his twelve year career.  Not a bad haul for one of the lesser known golfers.  And his demeanour certainly bore no resemblance to the pouty, humorless Mr T. Woods.

As we left, I was within talking distance of Keegan Bradley but chickened out.  As he makes his way to $22MM, he does not need to hear from some old fart who also went to SJU.

This was the view from our box. I know, a bad photo but blame the Blackberry...

The tournament ended today.  Howell finished tied for 41st and out of the money.  Keegan was tied for 24th and made $54K.  Not bad for four days "work".

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This is the Bat

This is the bat
That hit the ball
Over the wall

The is the bat
That walloped the ball
Over the wall
Not once but four

This is the bat
That hammered the ball
Over the wall
Not once but four
Against Baltimore

This is the bat
That smashed the ball
Over the wall

And with each homer
Into the night sky
Elvis on base
For eight RBI

This is the bat
That crushed the ball
Over the wall
Not once but four
Against Baltimore
And into baseball lore

On May 8, 2012, Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers became only the 16th Major League Baseball player to belt four home runs in one game, a feat that is actually less common than a Perfect Game, of which there have been 21.  Hamilton's bat is on its way to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  It made a brief appearance at Rangers Stadium in Arlington, TX during the Rangers- Kansas City Royals game.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review - Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Another book that was on my reading list for years finally made its way to the nightstand.  The movie was certainly enjoyable; the book is downright excellent, one I could not put down and will probably read again and again. Seabiscuit is downright inspirational.

The story is well known:  the country was fighting the Depression and needed a boost.  It came in the form of a horse that ran with an odd gait and was on his way to the glue factory before Charles Howard decided to buy him for a pittance.  Seabiscuit had a reputation of being ornery but in the right hands, proved to be a loveable winner. 

Howard, who started out virtually penniless in California, was a self made millionaire but had personal tragedy in his life.  His trainer, Tom Smith, was consider washed up and ridiculed for antiquated methods.  The jockey, Red Pollard, had almost as may losses as total rides*.  But when the four came together, as if by fate, it all clicked.  Seabiscuit set racecourse records all over the country, ultimately defeating the mighty War Admiral in a head to head battle.

The author, Laura Hillenbrand, has only written two books.  I need to get my hands on the other: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.  I am sure it is as well researched and written as Seabiscuit.

* Reminds me of:

Bollocks the Bore was a mighty fine horse
And under his tail was the (w)hole of his arse
He won forty races and lost forty more
Any wonder they called him Bollocks the Bore

Thanks to Uncle Eamon Flanagan for teaching me that one.

Book Review: Fatal Journey - The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson

Back in the 17th century, the spice trade was booming.  Nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and the like were all the rage.  The moneyed gentry in London could not get enough of the stuff.  The English sent dozens of trading ships eastward, a voyage around the Cape of Good Hope that was long and fraught with danger, namely bad weather and pirates.  These concerns meant that both the ship owners and captains were always thinking of an alternate route, namely the fabled Northwest Passage.  The thought was that if you sailed west past Greenland and headed north, you could get through the ice and around Canada and then head south towards China.  This could save months of travel and pour more cash into the coffers.

Henry Hudson was a veteran of crossing the Atlantic.  In 1609, he captained Half Moon, which sailed from Amsterdam across the Atlantic and down the Canadian Coast, as far south as present day North Carolina and then back north towards New York and up a broad river, which now bears his name.  In 1610, wealthy English traders, eager for a short cut to the east, hired Hudson to captain the Discovery.
Fatal Journey - The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson (Peter C. Mancall) describes the voyage of the Discovery, and as the title suggests, it did not go well.   The Discovery was Hudson's fourth to North America, and his last.  The expedition was beset by the usual suspects: icebergs, cold, lack of fresh food, limited daylight as winter came in...and finally mutiny.  Captain Hudson and eight others (including his son) were expelled from Discovery and placed in a small boat.  They ultimately perished.  An ignominious ending for one of the great explorers. 

Eight of the thirteen mutineers made it back to England and were charged with murder... but later acquitted.

The book is good, but not great.  The subject matter is fascinating but in my opinion could be presented in a more lively fashion.  See my review of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex for an engrossing  account of the old sailing (and whaling) days... They all can't be winners.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Goodbye, Old Friend

Twice in the past 30 days I made one of the most difficult choices ever.  The first time I chickened out.  The second time? I wish now that last Saturday I had driven right past the vets office and come home.  Old Bingo, who had been with us for the best part of fourteen years has moved on to the great dog park in the sky.  I hope it is full of all the things he loved: a comfy chair, old socks, trees to pee on, deer and rabbits to chase, dog biscuits, a chicken cutlet... maybe now he can snore as loud as he wants.  And bark at the doorbell, just like he did before his hearing went.  To say he will be missed is an understatement.  There is a hole in our lives where that old boy once shuffled.

He hailed from Briggs, TX.  Looking back, it was probably a puppy mill and the "breeders" were definitely a little rustic.  Making conversation with the owners, one old coot hearing me talk mistook "Dell" for "Dale" and thought I knew a family friend.  I remember picking Bingo from the litter because he came right up to me, friendly as can be.  That was to be always his way.

Back in Round Rock, he was christened Bingo and Sheila was faced with the challenge of helping train a puppy as well as care for the newly arrived Kevin.  I think it was Fiona that came with the O.G.N.I.B. song...

Two highlights of his career happened days apart in July 2004.  He joined me on the long drive from Texas to Connecticut.  He rode shotgun in the F150 and seemed genuinely interested in our progress, frequently sitting up and scanning the horizon, sensing change.  Along the way, I stopped for gas and a bite to eat.  I bought a chicken cutlet sandwich from the gas station and left it on the center console while I filled the truck.  Jumping back into the cab, there was no welcome from Mr. Bingo, instead he stared out the passenger window.  He could not look me in the eye.  He had eaten the chicken and left the bread.  I yelled at him a bit and for at least three hours he would not look my way.  He was the picture of guilt!  It was so funny and impossible not to love him.  He was blessed with a healthy appetite!

Later that night I stayed at what turned out to be a Hillbilly Hotel and I was sure glad to have him for protection.  He was not big, but he was brave.  This was where I met a giant of a man wearing bib overalls - with no shirt - he was in town for a family reunion. I asked where was he from (expecting some distant county or state). His response of "Way up the road about three miles" threw me for a loop.  I was glad old Bingo slept on my bed that night, in case Clete came a-knockin'.

The second incident was at Aunt Colleen's just a day or so later.  Bingo had never been up close to a cat before and decided Jinx was nothing more than a weird looking dog.  Well Jinx had other ideas and gave Bingo a NY welcome with extended claw - to the big old floppy Beagle ear.  He howled and backed up and then proceeded to bleed like the proverbial stuck pig.  The poor hound never knew what hit him.

He loved Southbury.  The dog park was nearby and there was so much sniffing to be done.  Every now and then I would let him chase deer and he would come back exhausted.  We got Tex in 2008 and Bingo never as much as looked at him funny but immediately took him in and even shared his chair.  He was not crazy about the snow but would always dutifully scratch at the door when it was time to go outside.  Every evening he would literally tiptoe up the wooden stairs (trying to quieten his claws) and sleep on our bed.  Manys the winter night he warmed it up for us!

By the time we moved back to Texas in 2009 he was going gray but was still lively, although the snoring was now approaching volcanic levels.  He started to develop large cysts and towards the end stopped going upstairs.  He became very stiff and the poor old devil had no stamina.  A walk was out of the question.  It was sad to see the way he jealously looked at Tex as we headed off for a constitutional.  His hair was falling out and he was almost fully deaf.  His eyesight was going as well.  And despite all this, he loved nothing better than a belly rub and responded with warm licks and a nuzzle.

Bingo, I hope dog heaven is freaking awesome because no dog deserves it more.