Have you tried Skype?

3 11 2009

I can’t believe I waited to get on board with Skype. Talk about huge savings on long distance calls. The reason I am finally on board is international calls. I need to call internationally and Skype will save me a fortune. It totally rocks. Try Skype yourself by clicking this <a href="Get an Unlimited Country calling subscription from Skype – from B#1.95/month.“>link.


“If I’m ever made king of golf, here are 10 rules changes I’d make.”

15 07 2009

Below, in it’s entirety, is a column by Ron Green Jr, a writer for the Charlotte Observer.  I wish I had written it.  Since I didn’t I have copied it for you below.  Enjoy –

Yell ‘get in the hole’ at your peril

By Ron Green Jr.
Posted: Saturday, Jul. 04, 2009
Ron Green Jr.
Ron Green Jr. writes about golf, football and other sports for The Charlotte Observer.


  • This mallard duck is one of the few objects that belong in a water hazard.

  • In this 2001 photo, Charlotte Country Club caddie Alonzo Donaldson cleans up behind a golfer who could have done this himself.

  • After you dig into them, rake the bunkers. Seriously.

Golf is a wonderful game but, let’s be honest, it’s not perfect.

If I’m ever made king of golf, here are 10 rules changes I’d make:

1. It’s golf, not sightseeing.

Greens fees will be directly related to your pace of play. A round of golf should take no more than 3 hours, 45 minutes. They do it in Scotland and Ireland – without carts.

Dawdle, take too many practice swings, wait until it’s your turn to play before checking the yardage and picking a club? You’re going to pay for it. Greens fees go up every 15 minutes over your allotted “time par.”

Course rangers will determine if you’re being held up by the group in front of you. They’ll have the power to waive your “over time par” fee.

(I know, this would require course rangers to actually do their jobs, something they rarely do now).

2. Front, middle and back.

Courses don’t need six sets of tees. We’re going to have three sets and your handicap – not your sex or your ego – will determine which set you play.

If you can’t break 80 from the middle tees, you sure as heck don’t belong on the tips.

2A. While we’re at it, yardage markers at 100, 150 and 200 yards in the middle of each fairway. That’s all we need. Hours are being wasted looking for sprinkler heads while believing we can hit it precisely 163 yards.

If you’re good enough to play to a specific yardage, buy a rangefinder.

3. No par-3s longer than 200 yards.

No one likes really long par-3 holes, even the pros.

The 12th at Augusta National. The seventh at Pebble Beach. The 10th at Pine Valley. The 17th at the Stadium Course. They’re all great short holes. Take a hint.

(One exception is allowed: the 16th at Cypress Point. It’s 219 yards long and the most fun you’ll ever have making a triple bogey).

4. The out-of-bounds rule.

Back when golf was played in the great wide open, not between McMansions, perhaps the stroke and distance aspect of the out-of-bounds rule was reasonable.

It’s not any more. Make out-of-bounds a lateral hazard. God didn’t put those condos 30 feet off the fairway. Some stupid developer did.

5. Discount the price.

If greens have been aerated within the past 10 days, greens fees should be reduced.

If carts are required to stay on the path, cart fees should be reduced. And if it hasn’t rained in two days, carts should be allowed on the golf course. The grass will survive.

Give people a reason to come back – even if they could really stand to walk.

6. Don’t say it.

Any tournament spectator who yells “get in the hole” or, excuse me while I cringe, “You da man” at a tournament should be immediately removed from the premises for the remainder of the event. As further punishment, they should be forced to watch “Big Hitter” infomercials all day long.

7. Putt ’em out.

If you hit your first putt, or your second one, within 3 feet of the hole, you can’t mark your ball – even if you’re standing in somebody’s line. Knock it in or close enough to knock it away.

Don’t spend all day lining up putts.

And anyone caught plumb-bobbing will be required to wear John Daly pants.

8. Post your scores – good and bad.

Handicaps only work if they’re accurate and that means posting your scores, especially the good ones.

Here’s the rule: If you play 18 holes and don’t post a score, the pro shop or your buddies will do it for you – even par from the tips. No exceptions.

8A. No one getting 10 shots shoots 73.

Remember, handicaps don’t reflect your average score. They’re what you should shoot when you play your best. You should play to your handicap less than 25 percent of the time.

9. Free drops from footprints in bunkers.

Let’s see how good Phil Mickelson is from the sand when he’s playing from the trench left by Walter’s size 13s.

C’mon people, take a second and rake the bunkers.

10. No cars, fountains or signs in water hazards.

The only things allowed in water hazards are whitecaps, algae, Titleists, disobedient putters, ducks, rocks and bass.

And Tiger Woods’ 9-iron Steve Williams dropped in the pond at the K Club three years ago.

Got ideas on how to make golf better? Send them rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com

Walking is great exercise

27 04 2009

The health benefits from simply walking are startling.  Did you know that walking 10,000 steps a day is roughly equivalent to the Surgeon General’s recommendation that we all get 30 minutes of vigorous exercise five times a week?  Study after study shows regular walkers have less incidence of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other killer diseases. In addition walkers live longer and enjoy mental health and spiritual benefits.  With little or no equipment investment everyone can walk.

According to AARP these are some of the benefits:

Managing your weight. Combined with healthy eating, physical activity is key to any plan for long-lasting weight control. Keeping your weight within healthy limits can lower your risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis.

Controlling your blood pressure. Physical activity strengthens the heart so it can pump more blood with less effort and with less pressure on the arteries. Staying fit is just as effective as some medications in keeping down blood pressure levels.

Decreasing your risk of heart attack. Exercise such as brisk walking for three hours a week — or just half an hour a day — is associated with a 30% to 40% lower risk of heart disease in women. (Based on the 20-year Nurses’ Health Study of 72,000 female nurses.)

Boosting “good” cholesterol – the level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Physical activity helps reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) in the blood, which can cause plaque buildup along the artery walls — a major cause of heart attacks.

Lowering your risk of stroke. Regular, moderate exercise equivalent to brisk walking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut the risk of stroke in half, according to a Harvard study of more than 11,000 men.

Reducing your risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. The Nurses’ Health Study also links regular activity to risk reductions for both these diseases. In another study, people at high risk of diabetes cut their risk in half by combining consistent exercise like walking with lower fat intake and a 5% to 7% weight loss.

Avoiding your need for gallstone surgery. Regular walking or other physical activity lowers the risk of needing gallstone surgery by 20% to 31%, found a Harvard study of more than 60,000 women ages 40 to 65.

Protecting against hip fracture. Consistent activity diminishes the risk of hip fracture, concludes a study of more than 30,000 men and women ages 20 to 93.

The list goes on and on. Many other studies indicate a daily brisk walk also can help:

  • Prevent depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis, and impotence
  • Lengthen lifespan
  • Lower stress levels
  • Relieve arthritis and back pain
  • Strengthen muscles, bones, and joints
  • Improve sleep
  • Elevate overall mood and sense of well-being.

How much should we walk to lose weight or to maintain fitness? A good rule of thumb is you must take 12,000 – 15,000 steps a day to lose weight.  It takes about 10,000 steps a day to maintain fitness.  Obviously fewer steps mean you are neither losing or maintaining.  Any amount of walking is good. For the best health results set a brisk walking pace for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week.

How can we get started?  Like all exercise programs there are some great ideas to get us going.  The first suggestion is to buy a pedometer so you can measure how many steps you take each day.  They are readily available and affordable.  There are two great options available at I Spy I Buy – take a look.  Some even help count calories. It is easy to calibrate your pedometer.  Count the number of steps taken over a known distance and do a little math.  A quarter mile track at a local school are easy places to calibrate your step length.

Next we have to plan our schedules to incorporate walking.  Start slowly and build up to your target level. Easy ways to add walking to your schedule is to walk with friends, a loved one or your family dog.  Its a wonderful way to spend quality time and get healthy.

If you look at the benefits of walking they read like the wild claims of a snake oil salesman.  Its easy to do.  Costs very little.  And it works.

The Susan Boyle phenomenon rolls on

24 04 2009

According to several news reports the video of Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent has been seen over 100,000,000 times.  That’s a lot.  On You Tube she is featured in 7 of the top 11 videos this month.  That’s domination.

Consider this math exercise for a moment.  If the video is 6 minutes long and the average worker puts in about 2,000 hours at work per year, we have watched the video for over 5,000 work years.  So far it has been reported that nobody has monetized the traffic.  If they had, it is estimated that it would have generated $500,000.  If not already, it will soon be the top You Tube video of all time.

There are over 30 Susan Boyle fan sites that have sprung up since her April 11th performance.  So far most of them seem careful not to cross the line separating a fan site from an income site.  One unexpected beneficiary is Arizona artist Susan K. Boyle who exhibits her art on www.susanboyle.com.  No surprise her traffic is up significantly.  I hope her art sales are up as well!

It is curious that the the domain SusanBoyle.co.uk was registered on April 10th.  The day before her performance aired.  It is well done and is selling ad space.  It is curious that the first post is dated April 6th and the topic of the second post on April 7th is Elaine Paige.  Somebody is psychic or creatively dating the posts.

There are more than a few critics of the show claiming the Susan Boyle phenomenon is an orchestrated set-up by the producers of the show.  Their arguments are enough to trigger the skeptic in all of us.  Each year the producers of the show find a remarkably talented contestant with a compelling story.  The show is necessarily scripted to ensure it’s entertainment value making it hard to believe anybody was truly surprised by her performance.  And there is the web site domain reserved the day before the show.

The new Susan Boyle

The new Susan Boyle

They also point to Susan Boyle’s ‘makeover’ as a set-up.  In her initial appearance she was as dowdy and unfashionable as possible.  That provided a dramatic contrast to how she looks after her makeover.  Some even fear she is hurting her chances of winning because of her new look. It seems odd to me that she is being criticized for improving herself.  That is hardly a crime.

A lot of us would be disappointed if it becomes clear that she is part of conspiracy by the producers to create interest and draw viewers.  If true they have succeeded.

On the other hand, the message of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ remains valid regardless of how the Susan Boyle phenomenon came to be.  The obvious joy shared by so many will not be diminished if the skeptics are correct.

I am sure we’ll learn more as folks dig into her life and activities.  They have already posted a grainy video from nearly 25 years ago.  They’ll find out more as they continue to dig.  Meanwhile we must wait until May 23rd to enjoy Susan’s next appearance on Britain’s Got Talent.

Many of us will be rooting for her.

Susan Boyle – a wonderful, quiet inspiration

15 04 2009

If you somehow have not seen the video of Susan Boyle’s audition for the show, “Britain’s Got Talent”, here’s the link.  This is ‘must see’ Internet video.

05_Flatbed_1 - APRILOver the last day this video and this lady have been one of the hotter topics on the Internet and TV.  I have watched the video a handful of times and my reaction is the same each time.  I smile.  My eyes get a little watery.  I root for her and enjoy the enthusiasm of the crowd.  And it makes me feel guilty about my initial judgement which set my expectations so low.

Susan is physically the near opposite of what our culture defines as beautiful.  Yet she sings like an angel.  Her audition performance is a stunning contrast to our expectations.  Obviously no one was more surprised than the three judges.  The Daily News has a very nice article here.

I don’t know about you, but, her audition hits several important chords for me.

  1. Do not abandon your dreams.  Ever.
  2. Do not let the opinions and expectations of others govern your actions.
  3. Conventional wisdom is suspect.
  4. The old saw “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is totally validated.
  5. I am so rooting for her to win!

However you react to Susan, her audition is a wonderful lesson.

Do you practice Slacktivism?

7 04 2009

According to Snopes, “slacktivism is the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society’s rescue without actually getting one’s hands dirty, volunteering any of one’s time, or opening one’s wallet.”

We all receive ’cause’ emails.  You know, the emails from your friends that ask for your help with good causes?  The ones that ask you to add your name to a petition or to send it to 10 friends?   The topics cover the rainbow from African genocide to religious freedom.

There is an excellent Snopes article on this topic.  On-line petitions may incite your passion but don’t make sense.  First of all, any petition can only indicate the sentiment of a great many people.  The politicians (who else would you send a petition?) that receive them know that each signature does not equate to a vote.  In contrast, internet petitions mean little or nothing.

When a paper petition is delivered there are pages of unique hand signed signatures.  An internet ‘petition’ has lists of names in the same font.  Politicians know there are programs that will generate names at the press of a button.  An internet petition is basically trash on delivery.

Sure, there are sites that collect names for different internet petitions and they may be legitimate.  My guess is those sites are more interested in getting their visitors to click on one of the income generating ads on their site than on any petition.  Whatever their motive, even if they verify every signature and actually do deliver the petition to the intended politician, the petition is trash on delivery.

If you want to influence politicians, write an old fashioned letter.  It will be respected for what it is; you personal thoughts, signed by you a voter.

There is another unverified reason to delete ’cause’ emails.  It is suggested that petitions and ‘send to 10 friends’ emails are a source of email addresses for scammers and spammers.  By sending them on to your friends you verify ‘live’ email addresses they can fill with internet junk.

If internet petitions do no good and they may be a source of internet junk, my advise is to delete them all.  If you feel strongly – write a letter, sign it and send it to your representatives in the US Mail.

Will You Dance With Me?

25 03 2009

The economy is obviously tough.  Our list of daily challenges seems to grow.  Today I received this in my email from a long-time friend that I am going to call after I post this.  Take a moment to be reminded of the important things – and have a great day!

Too many people put off something that brings them joy just because they haven’t thought about it, don’t have it on their schedule, didn’t know it was coming or are too rigid to depart from their routine.

I got to thinking one day about all those women on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to cut back.  From then on, I’ve tried to be a little more flexible.

How many women out there will eat at home because their husband didn’t suggest going out to dinner until after something had been thawed?  Does the word ‘refrigeration’ mean nothing to you?

How often have your kids dropped in to talk and sat in silence while you watched ‘Jeopardy’ on television?

I cannot count the times I called my sister and said, ‘How about going to lunch in a half hour? She would gas up and stammer, “I can’t. I have clothes on the line.  My hair is dirty.  I wish I had known yesterday, I had a late breakfast, It looks like rain” and my personal favorite:  “It’s Monday.” She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together.

Because Americans cram so much into their lives, we tend to schedule our headaches.  We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect!

We’ll go back and visit the grandparents when we get Steve toilet-trained.  We’ll entertain when we replace the living-room carpet.   We’ll go on a second honeymoon when we get two more kids out of college.

Life has a way of accelerating as we get older.  The days get shorter, and the list of promises to ourselves gets longer.  One morning, we awaken, and all we have to show for our lives is a litany of ‘I’m going to,’ ‘I plan on,’ and ‘Someday, when things are settled down a bit.’

When anyone calls my ‘seize the moment’ friend, she is open to adventure and available for trips.  She keeps an open mind on new ideas.  Her enthusiasm for life is contagious.  You talk with her for five minutes, and you’re ready to trade your bad feet for a pair of Roller blades and skip an elevator for a bungee cord.

My lips have not touched ice cream in 10 years.  I love ice cream.  It’s just that I might as well apply it directly to my stomach with a spatula and eliminate the digestive process  The other day, I stopped the car and bought a triple-Decker. If my car had hit an iceberg on the way home, I would have died happy.

Now go on and have a nice day.  Do something you WANT to not something on your SHOULD do list. If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say?  And why are you waiting?

Make sure you read this to the end; you will understand why I sent this to you.

Have you ever watched kids playing on a merry go round or listened to the rain lapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight or gazed at the sun into the fading night? Do you run through each day on the fly?  When you ask ‘ How are you?’  Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head? Ever told your child, ‘We’ll do it tomorrow.’  And in your haste, not see his sorrow?  Ever lost touch?  Let a good friendship die?  Just call to say ‘Hi?

When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift thrown away.  Life is not a race. Take it slower.  Hear the music before the song is over.

It’s National Friendship Week.  Show your friends how much you care.  Send this to everyone you consider a FRIEND.  If it comes back to you, then you’ll know you have a circle of friends.

To those I have sent this to, I cherish our friendship and appreciate all you do.

Life may not be the party we hoped for but while we are here we might as well dance!