Sunday, April 30, 2006

Vandals at Sedgefield

Vandals struck Sedgefield Country Club for the second time in two weeks last night. In both cases, they damaged the greens. Last night, they also stole a few flagsticks and burned a flag.

It's hard to know why damaging the greens would seem like a good idea, but odds are it will not seem like a good choice after the vandals are caught. After they are caught, I hope the club will make them pay for part of the upcoming course renovation.


Perspective on the Duke Case

I have refrained from commenting on the alleged rapes by lacrosse players at Duke. I have no direct knowledge of the situation, and the evidence released or leaked to the media does not make the situation any more clear to me.

You might not expect to gain perspective on this case from a Greensboro-based alt-weekly, but YES!Weekly editor Brian Clarey has used his recent columns to give some useful background on some of the people involved in this story. Who could have guessed that growing up on Long Island and knowing a few strippers would be so useful in a single story?

I am still not taking sides in this case, but I think Clarey's viewpoint is helpful in understanding this case.


Theater of the Absurd

Ed Cone has some fun with the Greensboro City Council in his column today. With the County Commissioners edging toward adult behavior and the many problems our city government is dealing with, we might see more satire and barbs like Cone's directed at the Council in the coming months.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jack Murphy Involved In Lawsuit

DJ Jack Murphy and Dick Broadcasting have been sued by a Winston-Salem woman who alleges Murphy made defamatory statements about her on the air at WKZL. As far as I can tell, only the W-S Journal has published this story, and I am surprised no newspapers or tv in Greensboro have picked it up.

I avoid Murphy's morning show during my drive to work, so I did not hear the alleged comments. It's not too hard to imagine Murphy saying them, though. I have had the misfortune to be around him in public a few times, and he is obviously a world-class ass.

Britt Whitmire of FM Talk 101.1 tipped me off to this story, and he speculates the case will never reach trial. I suspect he is right about that.


Free Grills

As we approach warmer weather, many people choose to move their cooking outdoors. In case you have not already procured a grill for summer cookouts, I suggest you pick up a free one at almost all local grocery stores and department stores. See below for more details.

Thanks to dear friend Jack for this photo.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Memorial Displays

I am saddened by the lead story in today's News & Record. The story says that Guilford Memorial Park will no longer allow families and friends of the deceased to leave items in tribute around crypts anymore.

I could understand the need for this policy if the cemetery were full of tacky displays or looked trashy, but that has never been a problem. I live nearby and have visited that cemetery many times, so I know.

I will bury my grandmother at Guilford Memorial Park very soon, perhaps in the next several days. I doubt I will leave any written tributes or displays in the mausoleum, but I would never deny another person the right to grieve in that way.

A spokesman says it has always been the cemetery's policy to limit displays to flowers placed in attached vases, and they simply have decided to enforce that policy. The cemetery was founded by my great-grandfather 70 years ago, and I am not aware of any such policy during his tenure there.

He had more respect for those who passed and those they left behind than the current owners.


Pending Sale Of The Cardinal

Robert Bell reports on the pending sale of the Cardinal Golf and Country Club to Raleigh businessman John McConnell. McConnell bought Raleigh Country Club out of bankruptcy a couple of years ago, and he is generally viewed as a white knight in the Triangle. Since the Cardinal has had financial difficulty for most of the last two decades, this is probably the club's best move.

A year ago, the Cardinal considered selling to a few current members or to a Summerfield resident. More recently, the club entertained offers from Fourwinds Hospitality and local golf course architect Kris Spence. Agreements were reached with one, then the other, but both fell through.

My parents were charter members of the Cardinal in the early 1970's. Back then, the Cardinal was tough as hell and had the best club pro and superintendent in the state. Since that time, the course has become way too short for championship golf due to advances in club and ball designs. The same greens superintendent is in place, but he has very little to work with. A renovation of at least the greens is a necessity.

I hate that the Cardinal has reached the point it must sell, but I hope that McConnell will close on the property and bring the course back to championship quality.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Larry Nelson Gets His Due

Larry Nelson was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame last week. It was an honor that is long overdue for a player that has been underrated far too long.

Though Nelson won only ten tournaments on the PGA TOUR, three of them were majors. Those three came in the 1980's, and only Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Seve Ballesteros won that many majors in during that span.

Golf writer Jeff Rude takes exception to Nelson being elected while three other golfers with more TOUR victories remain unelected. He notes that Lanny Wadkins, Hubert Green, and Curtis Strange each won roughly twice the tournaments that Nelson did.

Rude fails to give adequate weight to the fact that Nelson's three majors dwarf the one major each that Wadkins and Green won. Also, Nelson is the one of the best Ryder Cup players the US has ever produced. In 1979, he became the only player to go 5-0 in a single Ryder Cup, and four of those victories came over Europe's premier player, Seve Ballesteros.

Rude's argument is that Wadkins, Green, and Strange deserve enshrinement in the Hall more than Nelson because they won more tournaments. That view overlooks the importance and pressure of the stages where Nelson had his biggest moments.

I am glad the Hall of Fame finally recognized how underappreciated Larry Nelson has been. It's too bad Rude didn't get the memo.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Duke Honors Martin Eakes

Duke University has announced it will confer four honorary degrees at its May 12 commencement. Included in those four is my uncle, Martin Eakes.

Adding Duke's honorary degree to traditional diplomas from Davidson, Princeton, and Yale makes for a pretty nice collection. Nicer yet are his combination of impressive achievements and genuine humility.


Changes At The News & Record

The News & Record debuted its new look today, and I like it. The new font and additional white spaces are more attractive to my eyes, and I like the revamped front page. Keeping the focus on local news while providing recaps of a few national or international stories strikes me as the right balance up front.

Some of the changes seem to be targeted at younger readers, of which I am no longer a member. But I still like the run down on interesting things to do in Today's Starting 5 and other new features that will appear daily. And of course, their decision to bring back the New York Times opinion writers will be very popular. Slashing the stock listings was a no-brainer in an age where that information is everywhere I look.

I was part of a focus group a couple of weeks ago that previewed these changes. I agreed not to talk about the specifics of our discussion, but I noted that each person in the group gave an overall positive review of the changes.

I give the new N&R two thumbs up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Time For Rumsfeld To Make An Exit

"Rumsfeld's persona and management style are grating to many buttoned-up, by-the-book officers. He constantly asks questions, often with sarcasm and in-your-face one-upmanship. "

The current Newsweek has an article about retired generals' criticism of Don Rumsfeld and his generally dismissive style.

Even the most ardent Bush supporters I know think Rumsfeld is an arrogant ass. The real question is why the president would tolerate any attitude other than extreme humility when it comes to putting American (and Iraqi) lives in certain jeopardy.

(nod to my dad for directing me to this article)


Is Tony Snow On Deck?

The White House shake up continues.

Karl Rove will move out of a policy role and into a political role. I am not sure there is any real difference in those two roles in this administration, but it will be interesting to watch.

More interesting and much less surprising is the resignation of press secretary Scott McClellan. Dude has been way over his head for months. To be honest, it would have been damn hard for anyone to weather the storm of bad news that has beset this administration recently.

FoxNews' Tony Snow is rumored to be McClellan's replacement. He is handsome, charming, articulate, and he has White House experience from the Bush 41 administration. Moving from FoxNews to White House press secretary would be a simple interdepartmental transfer for him.

I believe Snow to be a dedicated conservative, so I have to wonder how hard it would be for him to face the press as Bush 43's public face day after day. While Bush caters to the religious right on some social issues, he is hardly a classic conservative. That might be the biggest drawback for Snow if he is offered the job.

Tony Snow and my Uncle Martin were good friends at Davidson College in the mid 1970's. I wish I could find Snow's column in USA Today about a whitewater trip he and Martin took. It was a classic.


I Wanna Rock and Roll All Nite...

...And Drink A Finely Aged Cabernet Sauvignon Every Day

You have got to be kidding me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bleeding Colors

Richard Morin, WaPo's director of polling, writes about formerly red and blue states and their apparent color changes. Answers to pollster's questions is not a perfect indicator of how voters will pull levers in November, but Bush's negative trending as he struggles to gain traction on any subject is interesting.

What will be more interesting is to watch how GOP candidates plan their strategies vis a vis Bush.

(nod to good friend Brian for pointing me to this article)


Mel Gibson Teams With Rotary

Mel Gibson has made a donation of $1 million to The Rotary Foundation to assist victims of Hurricane Stan in southern Mexico. Gibson saw the devastation first hand while scouting locations for a film, and he was moved to make a tangible difference in their recovery.

The Rotary Foundation's worldwide humanitarian efforts are second only to those of the United Nations. The Foundation has the led the fight to rid the world of polio and also operates the largest non-governmental educational scholarship program in the world.

Rotarians in our local district of 50 clubs have donated almost $7 million to support The Rotary Foundation.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Too Much Fizz

What is the deal with Cheerwine over the past few months? Almost every bottle has been overcharged with carbonation.

The fizz is part of Cheerwine's attraction, so I open each bottle carefully. Lately, though, bottles that have been sitting for a week are almost exploding with a quarter turn of the cap.

I would enjoy the drink a little more if opening the bottle didn't feel like a battle with Vesuvius. Is anyone else having this problem?


Barney Fife Lives

Who among us doesn't enjoy a fat head taking a fall?

This "gun safety expert" made quite an impression on the students he was teaching. During the course of his presentation, he shot himself in the foot (around 30 second mark).

Now he is showing real balls by suing the U.S. government. He complaint says his credibility is gone because the video was made public. Right. I guess your loss of credibility had nothing to do with actually shooting yourself.


At least this gun expert meant to be funny.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, My Dear

Mrs. Eakes is 33 today. That's right, my CPA wife was born on tax day. Tell me her career wasn't destined.

I started thinking about the significance of then number 33. 1933 was the year prohibition was repealed (well, everywhere but OK and NC). Maybe that's where the 33 on Rolling Rock bottles comes from.

Jesus Christ (by most accounts) died at the age of 33 in 33 A.D. Coincidence? I think not.

Alexander the Great died at 33, too, but not in 33 A.D.

I'm sure counting on her to outlive those two. After all, I need her to do our taxes.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Renovating Sedgefield

Robert Bell wrote ain interesting story on Sedgefield Country Club in Sunday's News & Record.

Sedgefield's greens were rebuilt in the late 1980's. The workmanship of that project was so poor that the contractor admitted failure before the project was complete. The substructures for the greens were built improperly, causing moisture not to drain from the greens properly. The contractor offered to rebuild the greens again at no charge, but the board decided the members would not stand for closing the course for another extended period. The problems have not resolved themselves since then, of course.

The drainage problems make it nearly impossible for the greens superintendent to keep the soil under the greens dry. That dryness is important, because the roots grow deep and are healthy when they are searching for water. It is no accident that the greens have been much better during the drought of the last year.

The article creates the impression that the planning for the restoration project originated six months ago with a desire to restore the course to its classic architectural roots. That is misleading, as the project discussions actually started 18 months ago with a desire to improve the greens, the fairway grass, and the irrigation system. In interviewing architects for the project, the plan to restore the course to its original design features while this other work was taking place became part of the plan.

Bell's comment about "Sedgefield's decades-long descent into a ho-hum course" was strange. Just in the last three years, the course has hosted qualifiers for the Carolinas Amateur, US Senior Open, and the US Women's Amateur twice. The Carolinas Golf Association also awarded one of this year's major tournaments to Sedgefield (it was later reassigned because of the pending renovation). The CGA's director of tournament operations told me Sedgefield would be a huge draw across the state.

The rebuilding of Sedgefield CC, scheduled for December 2006 through September 2007, will provide some interesting pictures and perhaps some additional stories, if the N&R chooses to follow up Bell's story.


I noticed in the current Triad Golf Today has a listing of NC's top 100 golf courses. The only Greensboro area courses to make the top 40 are Sedgefield and Grandover (East). That feels about right to me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tailgating Memories

Speaking of tailgating at NC State, I recall a funny story from September 1989. I had finished grad school at State a month earlier, and I was ready for a serious party. This particular day was just right.

The Rolling Stones and Living Colour came to Raleigh on a Saturday, which allowed my group of friends to spend the entire day getting "prepared" for the show. Just to sweeten the pot, the oldest and wildest member of our group was turning 30 at midnight after the show, so we had the right mix of elements for a memorable evening.

The drinking commenced well before noon, and it never slowed down, not even during the concert. The guy next to me was so plowed that he kept leaning/falling forward. I spent the whole night grabbing the back of his belt and pulling him back into our row.

After the show, our crew started piling into the back of my pickup truck. The first guy who jumped in...I'll call him Brad...made perfect contact with the dew-moistened bed liner. In a move Wile E. Coyote would envy, both of his feet flew above his head and he crashed to earth head first. We hit the ground laughing right after he did.

Traffic patterns after a stadium concert are never well defined. It took a while to sort out lanes of traffic and proper merging etiquette. We were trying to find a place to get into the flow when a state trooper locked eyes with me.

We were edging along at maybe 2 mph, but he gave me an emphatic signal to stop. He reinforced his gesture by storming to my window and saying "If you move that truck one inch, I'll break both your damn arms."

I was in shock, but the rowdies in the back were sufficiently lubricated to respond. "Brad" immediately asked "You're gonna break both his arms?" The trooper glared at me, then Brad, then walked a few feet away to talk to another trooper. I was trying to figure out how to avoid a certain ride downtown with broken limbs.

A student helping with traffic control saw my confrontation with the trooper. Sympathizing with a group of students, and perhaps wishing he join the rowdies in the back of the truck, he stopped five or six merging lanes of traffic, then vigorously waved me through. I drove straight through the opening he created as the trooper watched, helpless to stop me in a sea of thousands of cars.

I'm still not sure what would have happened had that student not rescued my gang and me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Now, Lee Fowler?

Now that NC State AD Lee Fowler has been turned down by his first two choices, Rick Barnes and John Calipari, where will he turn next for rejection? The smart money seems to be on LSU's John Brady (that would be a mistake, by the way).

All I can say is that if I were a coach, I would be pining for a call from Fowler. That way he could court me for a few days before I got a half million dollar raise at my current job.


Gate Needs A Hug

I am a little late with this news, but we had 53 participants in this year's NCAA pool. A good friend in Florida was the winner, and my father-in-law finished second.

We had a three way tie for third among a young girl, the Gate Keeper and me. The tie breaker was total points in the final game. I did pretty well to only miss the total by five points, but Gate was only off by one, so he took third place.

Gate was way back after the first two rounds, but he made a tremendous comeback. He has begged me every day for the last week to give him props for this third place finish, so here goes.

Congratulations Gate!


Katie Couric Strikes Back

Wow, talk about thin-skinned. I offered a little criticism of CBS' decision to put Katie Couric in its anchor chair, and this is how she responded.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Dealing With Traffic Tickets

The News & Record had an extensive piece on handling traffic tickets today (unposted, as far as I can tell). I wish I could have inserted a line in the article about not calling me for advice on handling those tickets.

I get at least a dozen calls a week to my fourth business line, an unlisted number, asking for the Clerk of Court. All questions are about traffic ticket. It's amazing how many people will dial the same wrong number repeatedly.

My standard responses are:

first call - "Sorry, you have a wrong number."
second call - "Pizza Hut. May I take your order?"
third call - "Don't worry about a thing. Your ticket has been dismissed."

That third one usually ends the sequence of calls.


No Fun For State Football Fans

Tailgating for NC State football used to be pretty damn fun. With the expansive grassed areas, folks could pull in and make a day of picnicking, throwing the frisbee, or playing a decent game of football.

Since I graduated in 1989, the grass was converted to asphalt. As facilities underwent major renovations, big donors were given more and more reserved parking spots, leaving fewer for the unwashed masses.

Now we learn that NC State will outlaw kegs of beer and loud stereos on the stadium grounds. I wish they would spend less time worrying about these trivial issues and more time getting this clown under control.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Masters Predictions

The Masters golf championship begins this morning in Augusta, GA. The course has been lengthened once again, leading many to believe only the longest hitters will be able to contend, particularly if it rains during the tournament.

I did not have time for my traditional analysis and full-scale predictions, so I will provide some quick hits.

Vijay Singh: Still a threat because of his length. Although his short game is improved, it is not outstanding - top 25 finish.

Sergio Garcia: One of the best drivers in the world and has a solid wedge game. His putting has been erratic, which will keep him from contending - top 25 finish.

Lucas Glover: First appearance at The Masters, but his game is in top form. He has the length and fearlessness to play well at Augusta - top 15 finish.

Jose Maria Olazabal: Two-time champion with a runner up finish last week. If he can keep his driver in the fairway, his pinpoint irons and revived short game will keep him in the hint - top 25 finish.

Adam Scott: His game is made for Augusta - more length than accuracy. Solving the putting riddles at Augusta will be the key - top 25 finish.

Ernie Els: Has contended at Augusta multiple times, but has snake-bitten. I am not sure he is 100% after knee surgery in 2005 - top 40 finish.

Tiger Woods: Defending champ with four titles. Lengthening the course will not affect him, but thoughts of a gravely ill father might. He should have a good chance to win, but I think he settles for a top 5 finish.

Retief Goosen: Unflappable demeanor with two major titles on tough courses. He is sneaky long and putts best on slick greens. He has contended before, and he will again this year - top 10 finish.

David Toms: Straight driver with better length than it appears, good iron player, and great putter. He is a bulldog, especially in pressure situations and big tournaments. I think he surprises experts by getting a top 10 finish.

Chris DiMarco: Has almost won the last two years. Added length puts Augusta just out of reach, and he falls back to a top 40 finish.

Phil Mickelson: Lapped the field by 13 shots last week. His short game talent is world-class, and he is making better decisions around the greens. He has three majors under his belt now, including the most recent PGA Championship. He makes it four this weekend.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Katie Couric Jumps To CBS

I had planned to post a prediction that Katie Couric would accept CBS's offer to anchor the evening news. Once heir apparent John Roberts moved to CNN, it seemed the writing was on the wall. Couric beat me to the punch by announcing this morning that she is indeed making the move to CBS.

Couric rose to prominence during a tour of the White House at its 200th birthday with Barbara Bush. During the tour, President George H.W. Bush dropped in for what he thought would be a good photo op. Instead, Couric peppered him with questions that caught the him off guard. For her ambush of President Bush, Couric accrued a certain gravitas that seemed undeserved to me.

The CBS anchor seat has been held by Bob Schieffer on an interim basis for over a year now. Schieffer, the last link to the once great CBS news organization, is a serious news man who helped restore the credibility of the anchor spot and network in the wake of Dan Rather's meltdown. During the last 15 months when all three major evening newscasts changed anchors, CBS is the only one to enjoy a ratings increase.

Replacing Schieffer with Couric is a very risky proposition for CBS. Schieffer has righted the CBS ship with his blend of reporting and pragmatism, with a dash of appropriate humor. I am unconvinced that Couric will be credible reporting and delivering hard news, and I suspect CBS will look back at this hire as another blunder for the network.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Jim Black & Tom DeLay - Separated At Birth?

Now that Tom DeLay finally found a clue and will resign from the US House, we can turn our full attention to North Carolina's House Speaker Jim Black. When you think about it, Black is little more than a bad DeLay impersonator.

Let's take a look at Jim Black's playbook, which seems eerily simlar to DeLay's.

Jim Black's Checklist

Develop raging case of helmet head

Learn to wear plastic smile

Get a personal night deposit box

Dole out cash to political cronies

Redistrict state to protect interests

When caught in a scandal, say "Who me?"

Lean on purchased cronies for support

Act innocent and try to ride out the storm

Finally give up and resign in shame

Buy your wife a going away present

Hmmm. Black only has two steps left to be just like his boy DeLay.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day For Baseball



This is opening day for major league baseball?

Wake me up when it's over.


Go Goths

Tonight's NCAA championship game is one of the most evenly matched in many years. It may come down to how closely the officials call the game. If the zebras really let them bang, UCLA probably has the edge. Otherwise, I think Florida will win and give me a tie for third place with the Gate Keeper in my pool.

I think the ratings for this game might be a tad lower than usual. Neither team has the sexy factor going, and neither has the Cinderella story that George Mason would have provided.

On the other hand, the ratings could be pushed higher by the underappreciated goth demographic. It's not often one of their own grows up to be a college basketball coach.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Careful Where You Paddle

I am semi-retired from paddling rafts, canoes, and kayaks, although I am planning a big whitewater trip this summer. I think I will make that trip to the mountains and avoid the coast.

This picture is the real deal.

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