hit more fairways. make more putts. avoid the hazards. play by the rules.
“The Sun’ll Come Up…”

Posted on Wednesday 23 August 2006

Me: Are you around tomorrow afternoon?
Him: No, I’ll be out of town most of the day.
Me: OK, when’s a good time on Thursday or Friday?
Him: Let’s meet for coffee tomorrow at 7:15.
Me: Sounds great.

Wednesday at 7:15
Me: Hey, I’m here. Where are you?
Him: What? I thought we were meeting tomorrow.
Me: So yesterday when you said ‘tomorrow’ you didn’t mean today, you meant tomorrow?
Him: Yes. Sorry. See you tomorrow?
Me: Sure thing. I got my walk in early. No problem.

jack @ 7:53 am
Filed under: personal
The Tournament That Would Not Die

Posted on Thursday 29 June 2006

As of Tuesday the Booz Allen Classic is officially history, finally. It was supposed to end on Sunday, as do all PGA Tour events, but the incredible bout of torrential rain wreaked havoc with the course starting Saturday night. All in all I spent most of every day for eight straight days at Avenel; I figure that of the 80 or so total hours, about 10 were spent sitting around waiting for play to either begin for the day or resume after a rain delay. The days run together during tournament week in a normal year; this year, with the extra days, schedule changes and the incessant starting and stopping of play it seemed like I was never going to leave the grounds.

A couple of other thoughts about the event:

It was so wet on Sunday morning that my phone, hidden inside two layers of waterproof fabric, got drenched and refused to work until Monday evening, after I subjected it to 30 minutes of my bride’s hair dryer.

During tournament week trailers are used for temporary offices for the various volunteer organizers: walking scorers, marshals, the kids who carry the scoring signs, communications, security etc. A few of us spent Sunday morning in the general volunteer trailer waiting out the storm. We dubbed ourselves the “trailer trash” and had a good laugh about how much God apparently hates trailer parks and hoping he didn’t notice a temporary one.

When we arrived on Monday morning we learned that the course had received five inches of rain on Sunday night, in addition to the several inches on Saturday night and Sunday morning. The course was devastated: every bunker was either washed out, filled with water or both. The eleventh green was 90% under water. Large trees lay across more than a few tees. And a “potty farm” next to the 12th fairway had been washed “downstream someplace”, to quote one of the organizers. I was convinced that there was absolutely no way the course could be made ready for play, but the grounds crew at Avenel, along with the Tour staff, accomplished was seemed to be impossible.

The sad part of Monday was that they only needed about 90 minutes of play to finish the tournament; they got 60. The last group was on 17 green when the skies just opened and play was cancelled for the day. Between my rainsuit and umbrella I’d managed to stay relatively dry all week until that moment. In the 2 minutes it took me to get to shelter I got soaked to the skin. Nice.

A standard marshal phrase led to the funniest moment I think I’ve ever had at a tournament. One of our team, Tim, approached the gallery as a group of players got ready to putt. Tim held up his “Quiet Please” sign and asked gallery walking on the nearby cart path to “stand please.” With that, a man who had been kneeling right by the gallery rope stood up. Sir, as much as we like the tour guys, we say “stand please” not “all rise.” That one moment will make me laugh for years.

I gleaned some further intelligence about the future of the PGA Tour in Washington which I’ll share in another post. But I did note that the players who came to DC seemed genuinely sorry to see the event so much in doubt; more than a few of them talked openly about the way the final act was being handled. Personally, I like to think that the event itself didn’t want to end; hence the rain and the two day extension.

jack @ 9:42 am
Filed under: golf
PGA Tour Stop in Washington, part II

Posted on Wednesday 7 June 2006

Several weeks ago I wrote that this summer’s PGA Tour stop here in Washington could be the last one for a while. I think the Tour wants out of the TPC at Avenel for a variety of reasons but doesn’t want to look silly and just cancel an event at one of their own venues, not to mention what such a move might do to regular play and membership at Avenel.

I don’t think the Tour wants to leave Washington on a permanent basis but I do think they’re willing to sit out a couple of years to get away from the venue in Potomac. And the choices of where to hold a Tour event are not as wide as you might think.

First of all, rule out last year’s host site, Congressional. The members have made it clear they want majors and near-majors, not a regular tour stop. The course is hosting the US Amateur in 2009 and the Open in 2011, which seems to be just fine with them. You can rule out RTJ, too. They seem to value their reputation as a very exclusive place, and hosting the occasional Presidents Cup seems just fine with them. Caves Valley, northwest of Baltimore? Held a magnificent US Senior Open in 2002 but like RTJ is very private and the members seem to prefer it that way. Bulle Rock, in Havre de Grace? Not only is it already hosting a women’s major but it’s also a bit of a hike from metropolitan Washington. Other than those three spots there doesn’t seem to be any location with the scale, location and facilities needed to host a regular tour event.

Except one. I think the Tour has it’s eye on a place across the river, a new course designed by Greg Norman at Lansdowne. Norman has made no secret that he designed the course for a Tour event. He even promotes it as featuring “Golf’s Toughest Mile”; the closing four holes measure 1,760 yards from the championship tees. Given Norman’s harsh criticism of Avenel it would be a delicious bit of irony if his course did wind up hosting a tournament.

What other bits would lead me to such speculation? Well, there’s the Kemper connection. Kemper Sports managed the development of the Norman course; guess who is the tournament management company for the DC Tour stop? Yes, that same Kemper Sports. And guess who hasn’t been able to line up a title sponsor, or even a consortium, for a fall Tour event? Yep, Kemper.

This year’s event is on tenuous ground, if the preparation at the course is any indication. The skybox at #17 tee, long a fixture, is gone. The Pavillion Club tent, once huge, is now midsized. Perhaps most telling of all, it looks as through there are going to be only a half dozen corporate tents around the 18th green, down remarkably from even 2004. There have been stories in the papers about the difficulties of finding volunteers, and obviously Kemper’s had a tough time selling sponsorships both large and small, too.

[Update: after visiting the course again on June 8 I counted seven tents around 18 green and saw the platform for a small skybox at 17 tee.]

I think the situation is set up just the way the PGA Tour wants: pull out of DC for a couple of years, citing poor fan and corporate support. Evaluate how the (regular season) FedEx Cup tournaments are doing starting next year. As they study attendance, field, TV viewership and sponsorships the Tour will be able to spot the winners and losers in the new schedule. That analysis should make it reasonably simple to figure out where to put a DC event back on the schedule.

And we’ll all know what’s going to happen soon enough: the Tour has said it will announce the 2007 schedule during the week of the Booz Allen Classic. Now wouldn’t that be ironic, if there’s no DC event next year?

Disclaimer: I have had no discussions whatsoever along these lines with anyone associated with the event, the courses, or the PGA Tour. My comments are my own, and are not based on contacts with anybody involved, or even remotely connected, with any entity associated with this topic. You are free to consider them the incoherent ramblings of somebody with too much time on his hands, if you like. 🙂

jack @ 10:45 am
Filed under: golf
Stupid Question Of The Day

Posted on Thursday 1 June 2006

Wisconsin Avenue NW, in Friendship Heights, seems to be a favorite place for street pollsters and others to try to corral people to pitch their stuff, but for some reason the hucksters always ask idiotic questions as their come-on.

A couple of weeks ago a young rep from some environmental group or other asked, “Are you against global warming?” BZZZT! You’re out for asking one of the most idiotic questions I’ve heard in a long time! Thanks for playing! Didn’t your trainers tell you that by asking a question like that you’ll only attract the people who already agree with the many assumptions inherent in the question? Or was that your point? No, you moron, I’m actually FOR global warming: cuts down on the winter heating bills and should extend the growing season thus providing more jobs for landscapers. And all that new shoreline will make for kabillions of dollars in new real estate development, not to mention the new marinas.

Yesterday’s SQOTD was even more fun. “Hi, sir. Would you like to help defeat the Republicans today?” asked the young woman wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with “Democratic National Committee.” BZZZT! I slowed down a bit, and carefully considered my response. Are Democrats really that bad at either picking street pollsters or training them, or could this be another Karl Rove political trick to make them LOOK bad? I chucked a little bit, smiled my friendliest smile and said no, sans equivocation. The young woman scowled indignantly at me, as if I’d just called her something nasty.

They don’t call ’em closed-ended questions for nothing.

jack @ 8:08 am
Filed under: politics
3G Bandwidth Requirements vs. Network Capacity

Posted on Thursday 25 May 2006

Despite the fact that I no longer work in the WWAN industry on a daily basis I remain fascinated by it, especially when it comes to the data side of the house. (I realize that with the advent of digital networks that all traffic is technically data, but the carriers, internally and externally, continue to differentiate between voice traffic and non-voice traffic.)

At the end of this article in InfoWorld about a speech Jim Balsillie gave in Washington about patent reform I noted this:

After his speech, an audience member asked him to predict the future of video over wireless devices, and he said it will have some uses, but it also faces a number of limitations. Wireless data applications are just at the beginning of their potential, but wireless spectrum has limited capacity, and wireless devices have limited power supplies and storage, he said. He predicted some wireless services will soon begin to charge extra for large-bandwidth applications such as video.

Some video applications will take up the spectrum space of 150 wireless voice calls, he said. “There’s no free lunch in physics,” he added. “You can’t assume away your limitations.”

Well, Jim, welcome to the reality club. You might want to refer to these earlier posts by yours truly for background: this one, this one, this one, and even this one. (If you find your undies in a twist after reading the last one, check the date.)

jack @ 1:38 pm
Filed under: wireless
Recent Silence

Posted on Monday 22 May 2006

I’ve taken breaks from writing here before, but none like this one. I can’t recall a period of time when my life has been filled with such short cycles of ups and downs as this past 8 months or so. Today’s a microcosm: twin peaks of good news (making some headway on a prolonged business negotiation and Gigi’s and my 24th wedding anniversary) sandwiched around the deepest of the valleys, the loss of my father 10 days ago.

His death was not especially unexpected, although there can never be enough preparation. He’d been in and out of the three different hospitals and two rehabilitation facilities in the past 14 months or so and suffered many setbacks. He merely succumbed to his latest.

He was the most unselfish man I’ve ever known, even at the very moment he passed away. His generosity – of his time, his energy, his talents and his spirit – is mirrored by the many expressions of sympathy and condolence that my family and I have so gratefully received since his death. Some have been intensely personal – flowers, letters, calls, visits – and some have been paying one’s respects to a colleague, but every one – every single one – has been appreciated.

Over the years I’ve been constantly amazed at how quickly people realized what kind of man he was – it seemed to take mere seconds, if that. As a boy, of course, I revered my dad. I couldn’t have been prouder when people would say, “Oh, so you’re Joe Barse’s son.” The admiration for him was obvious in their voice, but I just figured that they idolized my dad the same way I did. I mean, to my Cub Scout’s brain, why wouldn’t they?

The teenaged me didn’t hear the heritage question quite the same way, of course. All I wanted was to be known for my own deeds, for my own self. Every utterance of “Are you Joe Barse’s son?’ seemed to carry overtones of judgement and often disapproval – or at least that’s what I heard. In a happy coincidence, I finally stopped hearing the subvocalizations about the same time I emerged from adolescence, which I’ve been told was sometime in my late-20s.

It wasn’t all horrible, though, at least for me. In my ‘hair-down-to-my-waist, if-what-i’ve-done-so-far-hasn’t-shocked-you, try-this’ period, the inflection in the question changed again. Looking at that scruffy hippie, people asked, completely inable to hide their incredulity, “You’re Joe Barse’s son?” I just loved the expressions of disbelief when I proclaimed it so. Dad appreciated the shock value a bit, too, although he seldom let on that he got it, at least at the time.

As a man, thankfully, I’ve heard the tone change again, sounding familiar in an oddly comforting way. “Are you Joe Barse’s son?” The admiration is back in their voices; they can’t wait to tell their Joe Barse story, and I can’t wait to hear it. The teenager’s angst has been banished at last, and the boy’s pride has a new dimension – honor.

“Yes, yes I am,” I say, standing just a little bit taller and maybe letting the Cub Scout back out for a brief second. “Yes, I am Joe Barse’s son.”

I love you, Dad.

jack @ 4:14 pm
Filed under: personal
Finally, Some Non-hysteria about RFID

Posted on Friday 5 May 2006

Given that our fledgling company is interested in RFID we follow the space pretty carefully. The technology is good, although developments to date have focused more on functionality and less on the security of the data. This has led many to don their tin foil hats and proclaim that ‘the Government’ wants to/can/will track each of our every moves using either the shirts we buy or mandatory implantable chips. Even otherwise sane tech observers have fallen prey to the Chicken Littles.

That’s not to say that there is no problem with the current RFID security situation; there are plenty of issues which need to be addressed. (To my eyes those issues translate to opportunities. 🙂 ) For a reasonably sane overview of some practical effects of the lack of security you should read Annalee Newitz’s article in Wired.

jack @ 8:26 am
Filed under: technology
Here We Go Again

Posted on Tuesday 2 May 2006

That title should be sung to the tune of ‘On The Road Again‘.

RIM’s been sued for patent infringement by Visto, who claims that RIM is wrongly using four of Visto’s patents in its BlackBerry system. On the surface this seems different from the NTP suit RIM settled in March: Visto and RIM compete in the market where NTP is a patent holding company, the patents at issue in this case apply to different areas of the service and RIM is far from Visto’s first infringement target.

Visto has been in the wireless email business for several years and has about 200K users on several cellular carriers’ networks. The patents, according to Visto’s co-founder, cover data synchronization and other functions, rather than network elements as in the NTP case. And Visto last week won a suit against Seven Networks for infringing three of the four patents its accusing RIM of infringing. (Seven, taking a page from RIM’s legal notebook, has not only appealed but also asked the US PTO to review Visto’s patents.)

Visto has also sued Good Technology as well as Microsoft. Oh, did I mention that Visto has licensed NTP’s patents and that NTP is a stockholder in Visto?

[Update] RIM has countersued.

jack @ 6:21 am
Filed under: wireless

Posted on Thursday 27 April 2006

I try to stay away from religious discussion here but I’ve decided to make an exception. This story in Der Spiegel made me laugh to tears: a bunch of Muslim thugs in Germany have threatened a legal brothel with violence and damage unless the the brothel removes the Iranian and Saudi flags from a poster on the side of the building.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Europe’s largest brothel, the Pascha in Cologne, which incidentally claims to be the world’s only brothel with a money-back guarantee for dissatisfied customers, attached the flags of all 32 nations competing in the World Cup to its façade in a bid to demonstrate international flair and attract custom during the tournament this summer.

A giant poster covering the side of the seven-story, 126-apartment building showed a friendly-looking blonde woman lifting up her bra above the slogan “A Time to Make Girlfriends”, in a play on the World Cup’s official slogan “A Time to Make Friends.” Right beneath her pink panties were posters of the flags, including those of strictly Islamic Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Pascha’s manager Armin Lobscheid had also erected real flags of all the World Cup nations on another side of the building.

The campaign provoked excitement, but not the kind the management was hoping for. Men from the Muslim community came to the door complaining that showing the flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran was an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Later, some returned in masks.

Take it from me. Based on my observations the red light district in Amsterdam was not a place Muslim men avoided. Quite the contrary. In fact, I once met a German printing equipment salesman who was shepherding a gaggle of his Iranian customers around Amsterdam in order to close a sale. He confided to me over drinks one night that they wouldn’t sign the order unless he took them out of Tehran and escorted them around both Köln and Amsterdam; Köln so they could see his plant and drink, and Amsterdam so they could, um, partake of the local sweets.

But back to the Germans…I guess thugs are thugs, regardless of how they justify their thuggishness.

From TigerHawk, where you’ll also find this delicious comment, which reads in part,

“But against Muslim extremists, we’ll all unite behind German prostitution companies. What a crazy world we live in.”

Amen. 🙂

jack @ 1:43 pm
Filed under: politics
The PGA Tour in Washington, or Not

Posted on Wednesday 26 April 2006

My 20+ years of attendance and volunteering at the PGA Tour stop in Washington may be coming to an end, but not because I’m going to quit. It looks to me as though this summer’s Booz Allen Classic will be the last time the men’s professional tour comes to town, maybe until the US Open returns to Congressional in 2011. I think the PGA Tour wants out of their own venue, the TPC at Avenel, so badly that it is contriving ways to justify leaving.

After years in North Carolina the tournament, then known as the Kemper Open, moved to the area in 1980. Congressional hosted for seven years until the tournament moved to the brand-new TPC at Avenel for the 1987 event. The new course was a loser from the very beginning, at least in the opinions of the touring pros. Greg Norman famously said they should ‘blow up’ the ninth green. (The tour later did exactly that, albeit with bulldozers and bobcats rather than dynamite.) The immaturity of the course, coupled with a design which is quirky at best, did nothing to attract top players to town. Even with a tweak here and there the course has an odd ‘Ground Hog Day’ quality about it: numbers 7 and 8 are nearly identical par 4s, and 12 and 13 share the same design element, a fairway split by a creek. From a player’s perspective it’s OK to play once, but there’s not much there to draw you back, save for two, or maybe three holes. The short par 5 sixth is a terrific risk-reward hole which tempts even shorter-than-Tiger players to go for the green in two, and fourteen is an outstanding drivable par 4. Some folks find the par 3 ninth interesting, although the novelty of the vertical drop from tee to green wore off quickly for me, both as a player and a spectator. The layout is hilly, and can be difficult to walk, especially in the heat and humidity of June in Washington. Pointing out the ryegrass fairways, poa annua greens and a routing which sacrifices shot values for homesites seems like piling on.

The PGA Tour has said several times during the past couple of years that it was going to renovate the course; local news reports put the budget in the staggering range of $10-20 million. The conventional wisdom was that as soon as a new sponsor could be found (after Kemper left five years ago) the bulldozers would fire up. In fact, when Booz Allen signed on before the 2004 event the reports were that the event would be held at Congressional in 2005 precisely because Avenel would be undergoing its makeover. But the bulldozers never arrived.

Course aside, the PGA Tour has acted as if they’ve taken the Avenel event for granted. They naturally say that’s not true, but the fact is that the tournament has bounced around the schedule from Memorial Day weekend to the week after the US Open for much of the past decade. And in 2007 the event is supposed to move to September or October as part of the “Fall Series”; that part of the schedule is mainly aimed at those players who are trying to make enough money to keep their Tour card for the following year. That’s not to say that they’re untalented or uninteresting players, but not even the Tour couldn’t keep a straight face while arguing that they will be the draw a Tiger or Phil would be. For that matter, they’re probably not the draw that Rory Sabbatini is (who’s in the top 20 in the money list at the moment.)

The move to the fall is a failure out of the box: the course condition will be suspect because it may not recover from the summer weather’s toll, spectators will not be attracted to a field comprising third-tier and below players, the event will have to compete with Redskins games for fans’ attention, and there will no broadcast TV coverage; it’ll be only on The Golf Channel. And did I mention that we get hurricanes in September and October?

Given the venue, the spot on the schedule, and the cost, it’s no wonder that Booz Allen decided not to renew its sponsorship deal. I’ll be amazed if any company steps up to the plate, although the Tour has plenty of time to announce it should they find a willing sponsor. After all, they signed FBR as a one-year sponsor just months before the event, right after Kemper quit.

So why is all this going on? I think the Tour wants out of Avenel badly. They can’t justify a hugely expensive renovation for a middling event, and certainly can’t justify it based on the membership at the TPC club. Without having a significantly better course they have little chance of attracting a better field. And without a better field they won’t be able to attract a significant sponsor. By making things difficult for the event to prosper they can take it off the schedule, citing diminished fan interest and lack of a title sponsor. Neat; they get out of Avenel and don’t lose face.

But I don’t think the PGA Tour wants to abandon Washington permanently. The area’s demographics are too good and fans are both abundant and evident. Attendance at Avenel, even with few top players in the field, is usually around 25-30K per day in spite of difficult parking logistics. We also turn out in droves for the Presidents Cup when it’s held at RTJ and enthusiastically support the Senior, er, Champions Tour and LPGA Tour at their Baltimore stops.

So what is their plan? How can they decamp from Avenel but not abandon Washington? I’ll tell you in a couple of days.

jack @ 9:35 am
Filed under: golf