Thursday, March 25, 2010

A tradition like every other?

Contributed by Auggie
Master of nothing

The Masters claims to be “a tradition unlike any other”. We’ll soon find out. Unless you’ve been trekking across the Northwest Territories for the last month, you probably know that Tiger Woods will make his long anticipated comeback at the Masters in April. If you’re a fringe golf fan whose interest depends on Tiger’s participation, this is splendid news. If you’re a true fan of the game then not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, from purely a golf perspective the inclusion of Tiger is the best case scenario, it’s the other perspectives I worry about. Without tickets to the event, the only way to follow the action is through the filter of the media – and we know how that filter works. If the media executives had their druthers you could expect the following coverage breakdown: on-course coverage 85% Tiger; off-course analysis 94% Tiger; golf related analysis 9.3%. Great if you’re a Tiger fan, bad if you’re a golf fan. There is obviously a market for the trash, but I’d like to leave that coverage to the networks/programs that specialize in it like the E channel, TMZ and ESPN (which doesn’t even feign serious sports journalism any more), and let the golf fans watch golf.

It is here that I am counting on the Augusta National Golf Club to continue its tradition. There are those who claim that Augusta National has tight control over the network coverage and the media access, and that’s one of the reasons Tiger chose this venue for his return. I certainly hope that is the case. If so we can expect an exciting tournament based on good golf. Otherwise it will be a circus.

I realize that some people don’t know the Masters existed before Tiger came along, but trust me, it was a great event long before he was born, it was a great event when he was still a snot nosed 3rd grader (when he would have struggled to make the cut), and it will be a great event when he retires. Personally, it’s not only my favorite golf event but one of my favorite sporting events period. I was looking forward to the tournament even before the big announcement, now I’m not sure what to expect. If things get out of hand this could be the least interesting Masters since 2000 when Vijay “dead man walking” Singh loped up the 18th hole with the prize securely in hand.

If it’s a circus you want, check out Ringling Bros. They have real Tigers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

If it's Too Hot in the Kitchen

Well, if it's too hot in the kitchen, then you must not be at my house. I am enjoying home ownership to the tune of the cement floor, exposed structure, and the pipes and cables you see in this photo of domestic bliss.

If you can't make it in a toaster, we ain't eating it. Here's a tip for the uninitiated: it is much easier to throw away your toaster than to clean pizza out of it. This may also be true for spaghetti -- stay tuned for my report on that.

If you would like to experience such joy first hand, a small upstairs leak can make your dreams come true.

Friday, March 19, 2010


We are all exposed to commercial messages more or less continuously each day. Being a highly intelligent species, it is quite natural for us to detect patterns within these commercial messages and, across a lifetime of experience, gather some inadvertent expertise about advertising strategies. I think the average adult believes they could create (or at least recognize) advertising that is likely to be effective.

Of course, if you undertake formal study in the area, you learn in Psych 101 and/or Marketing 101, that there is more to advertising than the casual observer usually understands. Often times, an unintuitive approach will stir the strongest emotional reaction and facilitate recollection of the intended message. For this reason, most advertising is not created by "casual observers" but rather by professionals who are skilled in the art.

The big exception to this rule appears to be advertising created for auto dealerships. Inexplicably, they still hammer the "top quality service" angle in all of their advertising. All of them. In every print, TV, and radio spot.

Memo to Jolly John: Nobody cares about your 5-star certification for repair service.

New car buyers are excited about the prospect of a new vehicle that won't require service. In their subconscious they know that if they ever need a repair, they will go to a trusted mechanic, close to their home or office, who does not charge neuro-surgeon rates to change the oil. How can the entire auto retail industry continue to make this advertising blunder for decades on end?

Perhaps I am one of those casual observers who doesn't get it? Maybe there is an "unintuitive" psychological mechanism at play and by telling me about their great service, car dealers plant the seed that they are honest and respectable and will therefor sell me a new car at a fair price?

I doubt it, but I'll keep my mind open.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Go Big Red!

As we brace for the annual drop in corporate productivity, known as "March Madness", when the nation's attention turns briefly but intensively to the NCAA basketball tournament, I thought I would sprinkle some good karma on my alma mater.

Below are the lyrics to the school song in case you would like to sing them in the shower each day. Hopefully, Cornell will make a run.

Far above Cayuga's waters

With its waves of blue
Stands our noble alma mater
Glorious to view.

Lift the chorus
Speed it onward
Loud her praises tell.
Hail to thee our alma mater
Hail, all hail Cornell!

Far above the busy humming
Of the bustling town
Reared against the arch of heaven
Looks she proudly down.

Lift the chorus
Speed it onward
Loud her praises tell.
Hail to thee our alma mater
Hail, all hail Cornell!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

5 Best Housing Options

If we hold valid the notion that accumulating knowledge in the school of experience results in both gray hair and deep wisdom, then my current mop of gray and white suggests that you should heed my advice. As such, I share with you my thoughts on the 5 best forms of housing accommodations:

1. Live in a 5 Star Hotel - This is the best. The King beds have exquisite linens, the concierge is a single number punch away, and if you hang a bag of dirty socks on your doorknob, they come back clean and folded.

2. Rent an Apartment - Not a bad option. Short leases can keep you relatively flexible, all maintenance problems belong to someone else, and you can usually steal cable from your neighbors.

3. Dwell in Your Friend's Attic - I have done this twice (they called me "Den Frank") . The attic is out of the way so you get your personal space but you can still raid the downstairs fridge late at night. It is generally inexpensive as well.

4. Be Homeless - Nothing prevents the accumulation of clutter like a lack of closet space.

5. Go to Prison - The meals are regular, a job is automatically assigned, and health care is free. Being Bubba's girlfriend probably isn't too fun but that's why this is ranked 5th.

Importantly, I am sure you have noticed that "Own a House" did not make the list. It's down there somewhere after camping, held hostage in the trunk of a VW, strapped down in an insane asylum, and adrift on a raft. Home ownership brings too much aggravation, investment to protect, and maintenance to perform. It's just not a good way of life.

My wisdom is your wisdom. You're welcome.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sports Innovations

It is amazing how progress piles up on top of progress. Once a great many people have applied a diligent effort over a long time, the sheer amount of learning that can be packed into what seems like a simple activity is often misleading. Sports competition is like this.

The spoils of competitive victory drive constant innovation and improvement. Everything from the grip to the stance to the drills to the equipment to the mindset to the teamwork; it is all broken down, studied, tweaked, and improved on a constant basis. As such, it always jumps out at me when I see obvious opportunities for improvement that have not yet been embraced. I may have shared with you my idea about the "reverse lead" when tagging up at 3rd base and I wrote about the behind-the-back pick-off move to first base earlier.

So, did anything jump out at you when you saw the photo of the snowboard cross-over competition at the top of this post?

If luge riders need to point their toes and down hill skiers need a fin on the back of their helmets then there must be something to the whole aerodynamics thing. Bobsledders, speed skaters, ski jumpers, and skeleton riders all go spandex. So do sprinters and swimmers for that matter.

I can see the day when 4 slackers in baggy plaid arrive at the chute for the gold medal run of the snowboard cross and, just before the starting gun, one dude tears away his outer-grunge apparel to reveal a skin-tight body suit underneath. I predict it would take about 4 hours to transform the look of the sport forever.