Sunday, March 12, 2006

Nerves
Today at work I periodically checked out the PGA Tour tournament on TV. The final round was being played, and there seven or eight players within 4 shots of the lead. For a while it looked like the tournament was up for grabs (excuse the cliche). As time passed and the players played the last few holes, any one watching the coverage could tell by the players' body language that they were extremely nervous. There weren't many "big" names at the top of the leaderboard, and most of the players who had a chance to win had either never won on the PGA Tour or hadn't won in quite a number of years. These players weren't accustomed to the pressure of playing the last few holes with a tournament on the line.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are used to winning a lot of tournaments and playing under pressure because they are the best players in the world, which puts them in tight situations more than everyone else. However, even Tiger, the best golfer in the world with a history of never losing when he has a lead, feels the pressure on the last few holes of a golf tournament. He is amazing for what he can accomplish time after time in the heat of the competition.
The man who ended up on top today had a history of losing final round leads. He had faced his nerves on numerous occasions, and had never beaten them. However, today he faced his inner demons and watched as his competitors beat themselves. Luke Donald is a 26 year old Englishman who had won one tournament today, in a rain shortened 54 hole event in 2002. He had never won a 72 hole tournament. Last year he was leading a tournament with 5 holes to play. Tiger was lurking, and when Luke felt Tiger's presence he crumbled.
I've played a good amount of tournaments myself, and I'm no stranger to pressure. I have had more than my fair share of meltdowns over the last few holes. I have also played well and lost to someone who played better. The nervousness I have felt can't be compared to anything else. It's not fear of anything physical. You won't die or be punished. The pressure comes from within. Your hands get sweaty. You know that a mere fraction of an inche can be the difference between a great shot and a disastrous one. You want to do one of the toughest things in the world, which is make a little white ball go exactly where you need it to go. Any one who has ever played golf can tell you how difficult the game is even when you are just playing with your buddies, and the difficulty is increased tenfold when playing competetively.
I watched amazingly good golfers screw up easy golf shots today. It was crazy to see how the situation made such a difference in how these golfers played. It was nice to see one guy hold it all together and actually produce better than average golf to win. There is always a winner, but sometimes he is just the one who has screwed up the least. Nerves are nasty.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Random thoughts on college

How important is a college education? Hmmm...how many English majors end up doing something totally unrelated to English? My dad was an English major who is now a golf course superintendent...which is why he hates the fact that I'm an English major. He doesn't think I'll do anything with it after college. As I'm nearing graduation, I think he's right. However, I will (knock on wood), have that piece of paper. I BSed my way through college writing half-assed papers and reading boring literature, but I have that essential ingredient to a high-paying job--a diploma. After almost four years of college, I have little respect for college education. I remember no Spanish despite taking four godawful semesters. Art history is a distant memory...did I really look at naked dudes and comment on how they showed social movements by the way their penis' curved? The memory could be so bad that I have just erased it. Econ -- Dr. Schmidt --enough said. All I remember is his guns and butter theory and the fact that he used to get chalk all over himself because he would get excited about recessions. Philosophy was interesting because of Jo Jo Beatty, but all that class taught me was that nothing is certain and no one will ever agree. But hey, it's fun to talk about morality and utilitarianism. Web Design for my computer requirement -- Dr. Leska was a nice guy, but I've got no clue what's going on inside this machine I use so often. My two labs -- BS to the extreme. I really do need to know about photosynthesis and the types of leaves. Speaking intensive courses...I loved them. Despite the fact that I had no clue what I was talking about, I would stammer about two times each class to satisfy the respective professor that I could carry on a discussion. College really taught me how to take a shot, how to hold my alcohol, and how play beer pong (I'm kinda hot right now btw). I perfected my gossipping skills as well. I picked up smoking, a habit that's very appealing and will kill me at some point, whether it be a car wreck while I'm trying to light a smoke or coughing up my lungs in twenty years. College taught me about casual sex...wrap your tool, don't be a fool. I'm much more jaded than I was as a freshman. I'm much more vulgar. Why have I paid nearly a hundred grand again? I could have picked up all of these habits working construction. Oh wait...I am getting that diploma, which will convince some poor s.o.b. to give me more money than he would've if I was a green kid straight out of high school. Could it be a question of character, you might ask, and your character couldn't quite handle college? I'm still here...I'm not on probation..I survived the system, and this May I will walk across that podium. And while I walk, my poor naive mother will clap and cry and be proud of me. I'll be happy and cheer and get drunk later with my buddies, because we "made it."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Boring Budget story for Journalism, completed from two nights ago
New County Budget Will Increase Assessment Value, School Budget
The Hanover County Board of Supervisors is adopting a new budget for the 2007 fiscal year. The new budget will be $407.6 million, a 24.5% increase.
The new budget is a part of Hanover County’s Five-Year Financial Plan.
No property tax-rate increase is projected, and the personal property tax rate will be lowered 7 cents.
The personal property assessment method will change from loan value to trade value.
The real estate tax will remain at 86 cents; however, a 6.0% raise in assessments of real estate will make taxes rise for home owners.
A $250,000 house will be reassessed at $265,000. Real estate taxes would be $2,150 on a $250,000 house versus $2,280 on a $265,000 house.
Income taxes will increase by 6.0% and sales taxes by 11.6%.
58.5% of this increase, or $46.9 million, is due to an increase in the County and School Capital budgets. The total General Fund budget is $181.8 million, an 8.6% increase.
Part of this increase is due to a 4.0 % merit pay increase for School and County employees. Officials want to attract and keep quality employees with this raise.
Three services account for 75 percent of the budget: Education, 47.2 percent, Public Safety, 20.9 percent, and Human services, 7.8 percent.
The Public Safety service budget will increase to hire more police officers and pay the previously all-volunteer fire department.
The county’s goal is to have 20 officers per 10,000 population. The budget increase will bring them up to 18.8 officers per 10,000 population.
The School Budget is $176.1 million, a 12.0% increase. The increase allows for the $3.4 million mandatory retirement/life insurance cost and $842,000 health care insurance increase for employees.
The Sheriff’s Office budget will be $16.5 million, an increase of $1.6 million and 10.7%. The Fire and Emergency Medical Services budget is $11.0 million, an increase of $1.2 million and 12.5%.
Human services total $14.3 million, a 9.1% increase.
Public works, 4.0%, Administration, 6.8%, Capital Projects, 3.6%, Parks, Recreation, and Cultural, 2.9%, Judicial Administration, 2.3 %, Community Development, 2.9%, and Nondepartmental, 1.4%, comprise the remainder of the budget.
Sales Taxes are anticipated to increase by $2.7 million. State and Federal Revenues are expected to increase by $456,000.
The local income remains strong, with a 2.3% unemployment rate, high median adjusted gross incomes of $40,797, and a local sales tax growth of 11.0% in fiscal year 2006.


Three stories:
One of the best Sheriff’s Offices in the state, one of only four organizations to be hold both national and state accreditation.
Mechanicsville Fire Company – changing from a volunteer organization.
Emergency Communications is five officers short.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Critique Letter

Micki,

I think you have a very persuasive paper against eating disorders and the obsession that being thin is the only way to be. You make some very good points and have me convinced. However, I just think there may be a problem because this paper, at this stage, is supposed to be more of an inquiry, that is, defining and explaining the controversy. I think that the persuasive paper will come later. Also, since this is a controversy, there have to be two sides that are clearly defined. I feel that your controversy has a lot of information about women who eat poorly and those who think that women should eat naturally, but I am not positive about who opposes. I think it is society, with its idea that women should be rail thin. I think if you had a section early on in your paper that outlined the community this controversy takes place in and the two sides of the controversy, it would clearly define everything that you will be discussing.
What are the other sides to the issue? Are there any positives or defenses that those who support being thin have? I feel that you have no pro-thin defenses or points of views. This leads me again to point out that I think this draft is too persuasive, and while I agree that in this case simply pointing out the facts will tend to make your reader agree that eating disorders and thinness obsession are bad, you have some personal convictions that show in the paper. Perhaps you could include information on obesity and how America as a whole is morbidly overweight – that is one possibility for the other side of this controversy. Since we are supposed to “seek truth” in this paper, it seems better to include every possible relevant part of the issue.
I think you need to talk about what community this controversy is in. Explain your membership in that community, and give a history or some background of that community (you do mention Marilyn Monroe and Beyonce – possibly more examples like those will help).
The topic sentences in your paragraphs are usually decent, but you have to make sure that you don’t wander. Everything in your paragraphs should be relevant to the topic sentence – if something isn’t, it should be moved to another paragraph. Your second paragraph is fine; it stays on topic. However, there is not much variety in your paragraphs, because they all are about the cons of striving to be thin. When you start discussing the other side, you should have more variety.
You have a potent controversy and one that you should be able to write a very persuasive paper on in the future. Focus on introducing the community, outlining the controversy, and giving a neutral analysis or presentation of facts on that controversy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Start of journ story
New County Budget Will Cause Changes
The Hanover County Board of Supervisors is adopting a new budget for the 2007 fiscal year. The new budget will be $407.6 million, a 24.5% increase.
Income taxes will increase by 6.0% and sales taxes by 11.6%.
58.5% of this increase, or $46.9 million, is due to an increase in the County and School Capital budgets. The total General Fund budget is $181.8 million, an 8.6% increase.
Part of this increase is due to a 4.0 % merit pay increase for School and County employees. Officials want to attract and keep quality employees with this raise.
Three services account for 75 percent of the budget: Education, 47.2 percent, Public Safety, 20.9 percent, and Human services, 7.8 percent.
The Public Safety service budget will increase to hire more police officers and pay the previously volunteer fire department.
The Sheriff’s Office budget will be $16.5 million, an increase of $1.6 million and 10.7%. The Fire and Emergency Medical Services budget is $11.0 million, an increase of $1.2 million and 12.5%.
Human services total $14.3 million, a 9.1% increase.
Public works, 4.0%, Administration, 6.8%, Capital Projects, 3.6%, Parks, Recreation, and Cultural, 2.9%, Judicial Administration, 2.3 %, Community Development, 2.9%, and Nondepartmental, 1.4%, comprise the remainder of the budget.
Sales Taxes are anticipated to increase by $2.7 million. State and Federal Revenues are expected to increase by $456,000.
The local income remains strong, with a 2.3% unemployment rate, high median adjusted gross incomes of $40,797, and a local sales tax growth of 11.0% in fiscal year 2006.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

rewrite of first Kezer article

Newly Elected Amesbury Mayor Thatcher W. Kezer III delivered his inaugural address on Tuesday, January 3 at Town Hall. He spoke about the town’s economic challenges and asked for the support of those who voted against him.
Kezer thanked his supporters and commended his predecessor, David Hildt, on a job well done during his four year term.
Kezer, Amesbury’s third mayor, spoke about the economic challenges facing Amesbury, a town of 1200 people. He commented that the challenges facing the town required the town to come together, forgetting past differences.
“I know there is anger, and frustration and distrust on many sides, but if we are going to succeed as a community, all of us, collectively, have to let that anger, and frustration and distrust go . . . let it go.”
Amesbury’s biggest challenge is that government services are using more money than is brought in by revenue. Specifically, fixed costs like health care and insurance are rising while state aid to cities and towns are being reduced.
Kezer plans to improve the fundamental structures of local government, reducing spending. Investing in projects that lower operating costs and using technology to improve efficiency are keys to reducing government spending.
Kezer also cited economic growth as the key to meeting Amesbury’s challenges.
“Businesses, like people, are attracted to winners. We will have more control if businesses are asking us if they can come to Amesbury rather than the other way around.”
Amesville’s median household income is currently 50,000 a year.

Expanding commercial and industrial segments of the tax base takes pressure off of Amesbury’s residential tax base. It will also provide additional revenues to meet town needs additional revenues to meet our needs.
Kezer stressed that this new growth should improve the quality of life in Amesbury. There are 5100 housing units in the town.
Kezer intends to implement a program called Amestat to provide information crucial to making economically sound decisions. Amestat will hold all levels of local government accountable and improve the ability to measure progress.
Kezer also spoke about the necessity of having school systems capable of educating Amesbury’s children to compete with the world.
“We have to ensure we are doing everything we can to give them the right tools to succeed in their lives. Our community, our region and our country's future depends on it.”
Kezer suggested that veterans and seniors be honored for their contributions to Amesbury by naming streets or parks after them.
Kezer closed his address by urging the community to come together to solve the town’s problems. He promised open and honest communication, fairness, and compassion from his administration.


Online Blurb:
Kezer Addresses Economic Problems, Town Support in Inaugural Address

Mayor Thatcher W. Kezer III asked for town unity in working out local government economic problems in his inaugural address. He plans to implement a program called Amestat to identify ways to improve efficiency. Kezer urged the town to forget past differences and focus on the future of Amesbury.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"Conviction" review

NBC has a new series, "Conviction", that is produced by the same guy that came out with the "Law and Order." The show features young lawyers starting out their legal careers. Nearly everyone on the show is attractive (who would have thought), and each has their own personal issues. I was reminded of "ER" and "Scrubs," although "Conviction" is not nearly as comical as "Scrubs." Like many shows, their are romances and love triangles. Personally, I think all of the women are very attractive, so the show has my boat. Unfortunately, the show is on Friday nights at ten, so I doubt I will watch it very often.
The lawyers work for the city, and in the first episode, their Distract Attorney is shot and killed on orders from a suspect that he was prosecuting. One of the new lawyers unwittingly told the killer where the DA would be eating dinner, which is where the shooting ocurred. He has to deal with bearing some responsibility for the death. Another young lawyer leaves her evidence in the courtroom during lunch, and is berated by the judge for doing so. She finds that some of the evidence, which is drugs, has been taken. It turns out that the judge has taken the evidence to teach her a lesson. She goes on to win the case.
The show ends with two of the lawyers having sex -- and then the woman leaving. The viewer gets the impression that this is kept secret from everyone else in the office, and is an interesting conclusion that leaves one wondering. If you are ever bored on a friday night, tune in. I'd give this show 4 out of 5 "stars."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Spring, Smells, Memories

Today was warm and spring-like, which brought back a lot of memories for me. The temperature reminded me of many good things: golf, baseball in high school, bonfires, the beach, flowers, volleyball games, and old flings. Spring is such a hopeful, happy time that you can't help feeling better when it approaches. Spring leaves the dankness and staleness of winter and energizes everyone. I daresay that the suicide rate is probably the lowest in the spring when compared to all of the other seasons. Today smelled "springy," which caused me to remember a lot of things. I believe humans associate smells with memories -- who doesn't associate freshly baked cookies with their mother or grandmother? If you experienced something, you usually can associate a smell with that activity. Every time I smell Aqua de Gio cologne, I think of this guy named J-roll in my fraternity, because he always smells strongly like that cologne. My mind then starts to think about all of the times I have spent with J-roll, which leads into me thinking about the things we did and the people we did them with. I think it is very interesting to note the connection between smell and memories. People will actually start to cry when they smell a certain odor or aroma because they have such vivid memories associated with that smell.
It is hard to believe that smelling hot dogs on a grill makes me remember a girl named Katie way back in the ninth grade, but it's true. The smell of mud makes me remember duck hunting, old beer makes me fondly think of my fraternity house, and pizza makes me think of my old suite mate, Chris Lehman. Certain perfume makes me remember girls I dated, girls I wanted to date, and girls I dreamed about dating. The smell of cut grass brings me back to the days when I worked on my grandad's golf course for chump change. My dad smells like grease and grass seed, my brother like weed, and my mom like bread. All of these smells make me, even if only for a split second, remember these family members.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Rough Draft-Golf Equipment Controversy
The game of golf has been solidly entrenched in America since the late 1880s. The game was originally played by the white upper class. Before golf carts came on the scene, caddies were used to carry these wealthy people’s bags. Caddying still exists at certain courses, and the professionals use caddies because they are not allowed to ride in carts. A golf course will have a head professional, who differs from professionals who play the game competitively for a living. This head pro will give lessons, watch the pro shop, order merchandise, and generally keep the golf course running. He may have assistant pros serving under him, and also likely has people that help him around the shop. Golf course superintendents take care of all the maintenance work on the golf course. They cut grass, spray chemicals, change cups, and basically do all that they can to keep the course looking nice.
There are organizations formed to serve those who play golf. For example, the Virginia State Golf Association serves golfers in Virginia, and on a larger scale the United States Golf Association serves golfers across the United States. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, in Scotland, is the other major governing body of golf in the world. These organizations have a governing body, which makes the rules of golf and regulate equipment and amateur status. For example, in 1904 an American named Walter Travis used a new style of putter called the Schenectady to easily defeat his opponents in the British Amateur. The English were so infuriated that the R and A ended up banning that style of putter from competition on its soil. That band would not be lifted for over fifty years.
As golf grew, there became an urgent need to provide clubs and balls for the golfing public. Entrepreneurs quickly rose to the challenge, and the golf equipment industry was born. The first golf balls were made of wood. These primitive golf balls were replaced in the early 1600s by the featherie golf ball, which was made of leather and feathers. These balls were replaced in 1848 by the gutta percha golf ball, which were made from the sap of the Sapodilla tree. When molds were adapted for making this golf ball, making mass production possible, the game became much more accessible to the lower classes because the ball became much cheaper. Balls in the featherie era were worth more than clubs. In 1898, the rubber golf ball was invented. Covered with a gutta percha outer layer, these balls are the same balls used today, although they have been vastly improved. The R and A first set a standard for golf ball size in 1930, and the USGA followed two years later. The two governing bodies had different size limits on the golf ball until 1990, when the two formed an agreement and set a worldwide size for the golf ball.
Golf club technology followed much the same pattern as the golf ball. Early golf clubs were made entirely of wood. Irons were used sparingly in the featherie golf ball period, because they often tore the fragile golf ball. The tougher gutta percha ball made it possible to use irons. The first irons were primitive, and made by blacksmiths until the 1870s. These irons had wooden shafts and iron heads. Until 1910 or so, these wooden clubs were made by the professionals at the clubs. When technology made mass production irons possible, golf club companies started, leading the way for the mass industry in place today. Early irons had a smooth face. In 1908, a grooved face on irons was produced. This innovation made the golf ball go much farther because it gave the golf ball backspin. Steel shafts first surfaced around 1925, and were commonplace in the United States by the mid-1930s. Steel shafts did not break nearly as often as the traditional wooden shafts. Graphite shafts were first introduced in the 1980s, and their lighter weight makes it easier to swing them faster, resulting in longer shots. Woods were made out of wood until the 1970s, when metal-headed woods were first introduced. Metal headed woods produced longer and straighter shots.
The USGA and the R and A are responsible for testing and approving all of this new equipment. Many new innovations have been introduced throughout the 1900s, and quite a few have been banned by golf’s governing bodies. These two governing bodies are there to protect the integrity of the game. This means that they make rules and test clubs to preserve the “spirit” of the game. The game of golf is much easier than it was twenty, fifty, or one hundred years ago thanks to the improvements in technology. Twenty years ago, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour was about 265 yards. Today, the average driving distance is almost 290 yards. The golf ball is going even farther than it was five years ago. Some feel that this vast increase in distance is making the game too easy, because the way golf is played is evolving. Accuracy and control were vital in the past, but with the new technology, golf has become more of a “grip it and rip it” sport. Is this trend just the evolution of the game, or is it something to be concerned about? Another concern with the new equipment is the fact that it favors the longer hitters. Without getting too technical, some of the new drivers compress the golf ball at impact. This compression results in the ball going much farther. The shorter hitters, even using the same technology, do not have enough swing speed to compress the golf ball at impact, so they gain less distance from the new drivers. For example, Golfer A who hit the ball 20 yards farther than Golfer B with the old drivers, but with the new drivers the difference in their driving distance is 35 yards, because the shorter hitter can’t compress the ball. Golf is a game of inches, and the extra 15 yards ends up making a big difference.
Corey Pavin, who is in his mid-forties now, was a dominant force on the PGA Tour in the late 80s and early to mid 90s. He hasn’t won a golf tournament since 1997. Yes, he has aged, but he is also infamously known as the shortest hitter in professional golf. Driver technology has made great leaps since the mid-90s, and he has been left in the dust. To combat this technological onslaught, golf courses have been lengthened in order to make them tougher for the longer hitters. On some courses, the average length player has an extremely difficult time contending, simply because the course is too long. The USGA and the PGA Tour are concerned that only the long hitters have a chance to be dominant. Some of golf’s stars in the eighties and nineties, such as Curtis Strange, Nick Faldo, Paul Azinger, and Tom Kite were short or average length hitters. They made up for their lack of length by controlling the golf ball and putting and chipping well. Greg Norman, Fred Couples, and Davis Love III were also dominant players who hit the ball a long way. There was an even mixture of long and short length players who had success.
On the other side of the issue, we have the average golfer and the equipment industries. The equipment industries have computers and experts testing equipment, trying to make it as good as it can be made. Golfers flock to the stores to buy the newest driver or latest set of irons that will hit the ball farther and straighter. The golf equipment industry is a booming business, and limiting their technological advancements would cut their profits.
Golf is an extremely difficult game. The average person who plays golf can’t shoot under 95 for eighteen holes (the pros routinely shoot under seventy). This new equipment makes the game more enjoyable for the average amateur player. It doesn’t make golf courses too easy for them; it just makes them able to play golf courses better. Why take the fun out of the game for these average players?
A proposed solution to the equipment controversy is that the professionals could have their equipment limited by the USGA, and there could be separate limits for amateurs. This would allow amateurs to play the game at an enjoyable level while ideally leveling out the playing field in professional golf.
Another reason that the golf ball is going further today than in years past is the fact that golfers are bigger, stronger, and in better shape. Golf has grown in popularity, and more kids are turning to golf that in the past would have played football, basketball, or baseball. Many professional golfers work out regularly, while even twenty years ago exercise was viewed as taboo for golfers. The idea of using video technology to analyze players swings in slow motion and the golf academies devoted to teaching the golf swing have also resulted in better golf. Better technique leads to hitting the golf ball longer.
Technology has affected golf like it has affected many things, and now those in the golfing world are wondering how to handle these technological advances. Technology is usually good, but it must be handled the right way. The golf community will eventually have to compromise with its separate factions.