Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: June, 2014

The Big Picture

Long ago, when we lived in the Sudan, a large photograph hung in our neighbor’s living room.  It was a very colonial British safari photograph of a bunch of “toffs” having tea (complete with white linens, crystal, silver, and butler) out in the savannah in the shade of a huge tree.  Very classic, very traditional.  There was more to the story.

The group had been out hunting leopard.  This was before conservation and extinction and preservation of species was on everyone’s mind and mouth, and this was a hunting safari for leopard, so leave it at that.  (Yes, I agree, it’s a crime to hunt such a gorgeous animal.) Anyway, they’d been out in the bush for a couple of weeks and had seen no sign of leopard anywhere.  The porters and guides kept insisting that there were leopards in them thar hills, but no sign of a beast had they seen.

When it came time to end the safari, the hunters were naturally disappointed, but took their disappointment in good part.  The guides had thrown a massive feast for their farewell tea out on the plain under a spectacular tree.  They ate, drank and were merry, and left Africa knowing that they’d had a wonderful, if unfruitful experience, and had lots and lots of lovely photographs to remember it all by.

Not until our neighbor got home and developed the photographs of the feast (this was waaaaaay before digital cameras) did he see the two great leopards asleep – in the tree directly above their feasting spot.

Peace and Plenty

austria dawn

This is a refreshing change of scenery from the hot and humid Deep South!

Belated Fathers Day Wishes

Daddy Czendor


Completely mixed up dates, so this is a slightly late paean of praise to the world’s most terrific Daddy!

Update California Chrome

Yesterday, I favored you with my humble opinion on Triple Crown races and eligibility. There is more to the story. Today, the paper ran an apology by Steve Coburn, the part-owner of California Chrome, about his outburst after the Belmont. Now, please note that Coburn did NOT apologize for his opinion that the Triple Crown races should be all-or-nothing (a comment with which I agree). He apologized for calling Tonality’s owner and trainer “cowards”.

Coming currently from the Deep South, where calling someone a “coward” is an insult only moderately less than being dubbed a Yankee, this makes a lot of sense – at least to me.

California Chrome

I know the Belmont is history and we’re on to more current events. On the other hand, something that Steve Coburn (one of the owners of California Chrome) said after the race made a certain amount of sense. I wonder how many people actually caught it.

Coburn said that Triple Crown races should be restricted to “all or nothing”. You either commit to run your horse in all three races, or you don’t participate. He pointed out that for the last 30-some years the spoilers in the Belmont have been colts that raced either lightly or not at all in the month before the Belmont, leaving those colts who actuallly ran all three races to face 3 tough ones in five weeks.

In eventing, and in ballroom dance scholarships (the dance equivalent of pentathlon) you must participate in all three (or five) sections of the competition if you enter. You cannot opt out of dressage and only do cross-country and stadium (although Tory would have loved that). You can’t opt to skip cross-country (unless it’s some kind of selection trial and you’ve been exempted, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish). In a ballroom scholarship, you can’t choose to sit out of tango and do the other dances. You can’t choose to sit out the first round and only compete from the semi-finals on.

Coburn’s got a point. The playing field should be level – and each of these colts should come into the Belmont with the same amount of pressure/fatigue as the others.

On the other hand, I still find the idea of running three-year-olds over these distances a bit premature. With the breeding programs these days aiming for early growth and speed, the breeders sacrifice endurance (which normally develops later) and soundness in exchange for a quick cash return. If you check the pedigrees of the Triple Crown winners (not the two- and outs of the past 20 years) you will find lots and lots of “stayers” like Nashua, Native and Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler well represented. Secretariat, for example, was a Bold Ruler son. The word around the barn was that the Bold Ruler/Princequillo cross tended not to have blinding early speed, but if the race got long enough, they’d win.

But that takes patience and an owner willing to wait on a return. Modern (in the last 20 years) bloodliines tend to favor early growth, early speed, and retired by age 5.

Heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Alvin


For the record, he’s a star. As soon as he realizes that it’s a show, whether at home or away, he hits the “sparkle” button.

Temper Tantrum

This morning’s paper set me off again. The sports section featured an article about a former college basketball player testifying at the NCAA antitrust lawsuit. He stated, on oath mind you, that he was a professional athlete masquerading as a college student. He added that he was a dedicated basketball player and an indifferent student and that he really couldn’t have cared less about his grades at his college.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky (no, Kentucky is not a state, it is one of the few commonwealths left in the US) lives and eats and breathes and sleeps University of Kentucky basketball. I knew this was the case (and it confirmed my loathing of basketball in all manifestations) when the priest at Mass one Sunday announced that he was cancelling the 11am service the next week because he had basketball tickets. Oooof.

A good friend was a professor at UK while I lived in Lexington. She had, in one remedial class, 3 of the star players on the UK basketball team. They were reading at approximately a 3rd-grade level. She offered them tutoring, special extra-credit projects, late-night counselling sessions, anything she could. The 3 kids did not come to class, did no assignments, took no exams and did not avail themselves of the extra assistance offered to scholarship (the term athletic scholarship is an insult) players. She announced that she was going to flunk the lot of them (which, shudder, would have meant the end of their eligibility to play). She received visits from the Dean, and from the head of the alumni association, informing her that she could do no such thing.

They painstakingly explained to her that revenue from television rights of UK men’s basketball funds the entire Kentucky university system for the year (that’s not including ticket sales, accessories, memorabilia or anything else, just tv revenue). And that there was no way that she was going to fail the three star players. My friend promptly resigned.

Athletic scholarships are a farce. They are a waste of class space, and misuse of the time and attention of professors that could be devoted to students who actual deserve to be in the class. The NCAA should step down off its high horse and admit that “college athletes” are, in fact, professionals in student clothing. There is nothing amateur about college football and basketball players. The pro teams use the college sports as a convenient and cheap recruiting ground; unlike baseball, the pro teams don’t have to subsidize a farm league to bring on baby pros – the colleges do it for them.

Providing all-expenses educations for aspiring professional athletes is a criminal waste of resources. If the youth has the brains and the intellect to go to college, fine. If he’s there to prepare for a career in professional sports, he needs to find another route, and the NCAA should stop subsidizing this.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest!! Comments appreciated.

Bear With Me

I am in the process of buying a new computer (the current laptop is a 2007 and is starting to show its age) which means that I’ll be converting everything from this one to the new one in the hopes that I will retain a lot of it. This also means that I’m going to have to learn to use Windows 8.1 (I personally was very, very happy with Windows whatever it was that I had before Windows Vista (which is a disgusting system by the way) but that’s the way the ball bounces.) So this means that there may be interruptions and frustrations while I figure out what’s what and who’s where … if things look a little weird, you’ll know why.

What really bugs me is that the companies don’t provide print user manuals anymore. You have to start the computer to find the (expletive deleted) thing. I was taught, early on, by the guys in our IT departments to “RTFM” before asking questions. I like (yes LIKE) a hard copy manual. Gah. On the bright side, I can now “google” and find answers to some of the most unlikely questions. Seems like I’m not alone out there, and that there are many people who’ve already asked this question – and maybe even someone has come up with an answer.

We are not alone!!!~

Summer Loving


Couldn’t resist running this one again. Bear with me.



Last-minute decision but well worth it! The Broadway touring company is camped out in Atlanta this week and I thought it might be fun. Was. Glorious music. The movie version had Antonio Banderas going for it (yummy ….) but this production was the Broadway show with lots and lots of dancing – really talented dancing. And mucho tango. Feast for the eyes and ears.