Archive for June, 2010

Tiger Woods: Opportunities Lost

June 30, 2010

There was some speculation (hope?) that when Tiger Woods returned to competition after his personal flame-out, that he would be a kinder and gentler individual. Many of the golf writers thought that he would consciously do this in an attempt to regain the public’s ( and the sponsor’s) goodwill.

So far, I can’t see where it has happened. Not only has he missed many easy opportunities to do so, he seems to gone over to the dark side, complaining to the media about the greens at the US Open and seemingly putting the blame on his caddy, Steve Williams, for  a bad club choice at one point in his post game interviews.

If Tiger had returned to the golf scene and dominated, he probably could have gotten away with anything. It would have been an ‘in your face’ situation.

But that didn’t happen, although his performance was pretty credible by anyone else’s standards. In the 1st two majors of 2010, he tied for 4th at both the Masters and the US Open, which for most would not be too shabby. However, in Tigers mind and obviously in the opinion of the sports media that constituted a competitive failure.

So instead of becoming kinder and gentler, Tiger became surlier, culminating with a brief and rude interview at end of the US Open.

But it would have been so easy.

The fans at the events had been extremely supportive of Woods and all he needed to say was that he appreciated their support. But he didn’t. He could have congratulated Graeme McDowell for a gutsy performance to win the US Open. But he didn’t.

Instead he came across as someone who hadn’t received what he rightfully deserved.

I had always given Woods some slack with his behaviour on the course because I recognized that players at that level in any sport are extremely focused and essentially self absorbed. It’s the nature of the beast.

So I didn’t expect Woods to return to the golf wars and turn into a Phil Mickelson, but I did think that he had more smarts than he has shown to date.

Regardless, if he returns to his old form that will be the story. The sponsors will be back knocking at his door and his attitude will be forgiven. At least by most.


Loyola Law School: Improving the GPA

June 26, 2010

This story may not be an exact fit with the social trend to massage everyone sense of self worth and may in fact be as much about University politics as anything, but it comes close.

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

But it’s not because they are all working harder.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.

The politics?

Law schools seem to view higher grades as one way to rescue their students from the tough economic climate — and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings. Once able to practically guarantee gainful employment to thousands of students every year, the schools are now fielding complaints from more and more unemployed graduates, frequently drowning in student debt.

Whatever the reason, it seems to me that if you wanted to ensure your graduates a place in the job market you would concentrate on putting out a superior product rather than playing silly bugger with the GPA figures.

However, in the sense of fair play there are opposing opinions.

Up close and intimate with grizzly sow and cub

June 24, 2010

Another story that demonstrates that you don’t want to mess with a mama and her offspring. This time it was a grizzly in the Prince George area and not a doe whomping a dog in Cranbrook.

Leon Lorenz had filmed her before, her smooth black and white grizzly fur a notable gem in his wildlife repertoire.

But he’d never been as close to the full-grown bear as he was last Monday around 7 p.m. when the light in British Columbia’s Robson Valley was perfect and the terrain so smooth he could walk silently between the trees.

“I remember telling myself I would be surprised if I wouldn’t see a grizzly,” he said from his home office in Dunster, B.C.

There she stood, about 25 yards away from him, her back turned as she grazed on some food. Her two-year-old cub lingered nearby.

In a flash, that second of serenity became a moment of terror when the grizzly bear turned and bounded straight toward him, the veteran wildlife filmmaker narrowly escaping death at the hands of one of his most beautiful subjects.

There has been a bit of criticism of Lorenz, that he had been reckless in getting too close to the bear, but he isn’t the first photographer to get up close and personal with wildlife in order to get that perfect picture and he certainly won’t be the last.

But they do risk their lives in doing so and they put the bears’ lives in danger as well.

Two cases that I recall reading about many years ago had to do with a photographer filming bears feeding on salmon in Alaska and a man in Montana who spotted a grizzly sow with two cubs and went after them to get pictures on his 35mm camera. Both of these cases turned out tragically.

The photographer in Alaska left a detailed record on his movie camera which showed an obviously disturbed grizzly that showed all kinds of evidence that he was not happy with the fellow’s presence, until the point that he turned and made one deliberate, fatal charge.

In the Montana incident, as I recall, the man and his wife were out in the mountains and were heading back to the truck near the end of the day, when he spotted the sow with her two cubs. He told his wife to go ahead and he went back to see if he could get some pictures and never returned. The developed film from his camera showed shots of the sow and cubs progressively coming closer to him. Obviously they didn’t stop coming.

Then of course there was the well publicized case of Timothy Treadwell in Alaska (although not photography related) who believed that he could live safely alongside of the bears in the area and did so for some time until he crossed paths with a grizzly in a poor frame of mind ending up with Treadwell’s death as well as that of his girl friend.

All of which only goes to show that you don’t mess around with grizzly bears and that goes in spades for mother bears with cubs. Hell you don’t even mess with black bears, as every once in while you get to meet one that doesn’t live up to the species’ “shy” reputation. In the scheme of things it may not happen often, but when it does you want to be prepared for the worst.

Actually, the first thought that went through my mind on this story wasn’t “wow,  the guy got charged by a grizzly!”  My first reaction was, “Wow, does this guy have a handgun carry permit?”

Now those babies aren’t easy to come by, although people working at some jobs can apply for and get a permit to carry a handgun in the backcountry. I hope this fellow had one because with all of the subsequent publicity, if he didn’t he is probably in serious crap.

The fact is, wilderness carry permits for handguns should be available to most people accessing the backcountry, not just commercial operators. And to take it a step further, you should have the legal opportunity to hunt with a handgun, none of which will ever happen unless we can get a groundswell of political activism from gun owners. And good luck with that.

Regardless, I hope the photographer had a wilderness carry permit and is able to continue to carry it as a survival tool as he goes about his business.

British grandmother jailed for unregistered firearm

June 22, 2010

This is wrong on so many levels.

A grandmother has been jailed for five years for possessing a “family heirloom” World War II pistol.

Gail Cochrane, 53, had kept the gun for 29 years following the death of her father, who had been in the Royal Navy.

Police found the weapon, a Browning self-loading pistol, during a search of her home in Dundee while looking for her son.

She admitted illegal possession of the firearm, an offence with a minimum five-year jail term under Scots law.

Cochrane told the High Court in Edinburgh that she had never contemplated she might be committing a crime by keeping the gun or that she might need to get a licence for the weapon.

She said: “I thought it was just a war trophy.”

Defence solicitor advocate Jack Brown argued that the circumstances surrounding the case were exceptional and that it would be “draconian, unjust and disproportionate” to jail the grandmother-of-six.

To begin with, this is the end result of ‘law and order’ legislation that imposes mandatory minimum sentences. Now this 53 year old woman is going to jail for the mandatory five years, apparently not because she was a danger to anyone, but because she had a “pistol at her home without a firearms certificate and possessing the prohibited weapon without the authority of the Secretary of State or Scottish ministers”. Five years in jail for not having a piece of paper.

With Canada’s Firearms Act, this could conceivably happen here given the right moment and the wrong people in power in Ottawa.

A Mother’s protection

June 22, 2010

Here is a video that has started to float around the internet. Apparently shot in Cranbrook, B.C. Once again proof that you should never mess around with any animal protecting its young. I have always maintained that a cow moose with calf was the most dangerous animal in the bush. Look at what this deer does and multiply that by a factor of 3 or 4.

2010 Us Open: Big guns back away from title

June 22, 2010

The US Open finished on Sunday and Tiger couldn’t repeat his Saturday effort. Dustin Johnson who held a 3 shot lead on Sunday morning crashed from a 6-under start to a 3-over finish. Ernie Els who needed to make a charge, couldn’t and shot 1-over par as did Phil Mickelson. The French golfer Gregory Havret had an honest chance to at least make it into a playoff but bogeyed the 17th the ensure that didn’t happen. And the eventual winner, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell dropped three shots over the course of the day but managed to put his name on the trophy.

As I have said many times before, golf is a strange game. I think I’ve used the term ‘funny’ before, but that might infer that it is amusing. It isn’t.

Here we were on Sunday at the final round of the 2010 US Open, with the number 1, 2 and 6 ranked golfers in the world in contention and none of them could rise to the occasion. By my count there were only 6 scores under par on Sunday. One was a 68 by Bo Van Pelt who had shot an 82 on Saturday. What was different for him on Sunday when the leaders were crashing and burning. No pressure?

Granted the couse was obviously playing very hard and the greens were very, very fast, but these are still the very best golfers in the world and they were whipped like dogs.

Of course, maybe that is the other side of it. When the best golfers in the world can’t produce and shoot – in some cases – amateur level scores, is the course just too difficult? Are they really chosing the best golfer or just the most fortunate on any given day?

We know that a golf game can go sideways for anyone, whether professional or amateur. But when it goes astray for everyone you wonder if it is because of the course set-up, the pressure of competing for your national championship or (likely) a combination of the two. It would be interesting to see any of the competitors play the course on Monday following the Open strictly as a fun round and see what they would shoot.

2010 US Open: And Tiger recovers his form

June 20, 2010

On Thursday and Friday Tiger Woods couldn’t make his putter work and ended up  at 4-over par. On Saturday the magic returned and he shot a 5-under par 66 and is going into Sunday 1-under par, 5 back of the leader Dustin Johnson.

Is Tiger back in full form? I guess we’ll see at the end of the tournament on Sunday.

Regardless, it was nice to see the old Tiger back on the course, dropping putts. And the crowd seemed to appreciate it as well.

Phil Michelson took the other route, putting himself in contention on Friday with a 66 of his own, leaving him at 1-under par going into today’s 3rd round. But it wasn’t there today and he fell back to 1-over par at days end.

The story was Dustin Johnson who also shot a 66 to match Tiger’s and put him in the lead by 3 strokes over Graeme McDowell going into the final round.

There was obviously some good golf to watch and Pebble Beach is a beautiful and tough looking course – not that I will every experience it in person, with a public green fee of $495 for 18 holes.

It is interesting to see that only three people are at par or better after the third round:. Johnson, McDowell,Woods and the French golfer Havret, in that order. From there the scores climb as high as 19 over par. A number that Mike Weir shares with one other competitor. I thought that Weir might have a good shot at playing well this week, and he did start with a 1-under 70. Then carded a 79 and 83 in the next two rounds.

Golf is a strange game. Higher handicap amateurs seem to expect their games to be consistent at whatever level they may be playing and get upset when it goes sideways. But you look at the pros – the best players in the world – and they suffer from the same problem as noted with Mike Weir’s first round 70 and his third round 83. Mind you, that is an extreme, but even Mickelson’s migration from a 66 on Friday and a 73 on Saturday.

Anyway, as they say, it’s not over until it’s over (another Yogi Berra malapropism). As is always the case, Sunday will tell the tale.

Soccer, an anti-competition mentality and entitlement

June 20, 2010

I started writing this blog a few weeks ago but got sidetracked. However the story seems to have legs so I will continue with my 2 cents worth.

The story is simple.  A children’s soccer league in Ottawa has a rule saying that any team that  wins a game by more than 5 points, automatically loses the game by default. (Although as I now understand it , with all of the unfavourable publicity they have now modified that rule).

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default.

The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship. The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

Although this story seems to have caught the eye of the media – for a brief instant, at least – it’ is just a further extension of the philosophy that competition is damaging to the psyche of children.

We have seen this philosophy at work in schools over the years, where  no one should fail and students get promoted up through the grades even though they have not completed the curriculum.

I have a hard time believing that we are doing children any favours by removing the competitive element. Not everyone can be a top class athlete and not everyone is going to be a brilliant academic. But does this mean that to soothe those fragile egos, those high achievers must be held back? The only way you hone your skills is by competing with others. And by that I mean real, honest competition.

It seems to me that those who rail against the competetive instinct – the teachers, the adminstrators, the parents and the social activists – are doing nothing but promoting mediocrity.

One of the ongoing complaints that I hear about today’s youth is that they expect to get rewards without showing any inclination to deliver on performance. It is the mentality of entitlement.

I wonder if, in part, that that feeling of entitlement has been driven by the attitude that it is enough if you just show up.

There is a much more rigorous analysis of the situation at Zomblog who takes it way further than a mere soccer league ruling.

Now I’m really depressed.

Tiger Woods: “That’s none of your business”

June 16, 2010

Just watched the pre-event interview on the Golf Channel with Tiger Woods at the US Open at Pebble Beach.

Lots of golf questions, then he was asked if he had arrived at any resolution, “one way or the other”, with his wife, Elin. Tiger looked the reporter in the eye and said, “That’s none of your business”.

Good answer!

Repeal bad, dumb and redundant laws

June 15, 2010

I have proposed something similar to this for years.

Kansas GOP gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback is proposing an “Office of the Repealer,” tasked with seeking out bad or repetitive laws, wasteful programs, and archaic state agencies for elimination. As a general rule, the media venerates politicians who propose new government programs as bold and visionary, while anyone daring to suggest perhaps there might be cause to eliminate an agency or two is depicted as some fringe draconian nut. Or just quaint and silly.

My suggestion is slightly different: For every new law that is passed an existing law must be written off the books. Although I think Brownback’s proposal is more pro-active.

Mind you, I still have fond thoughts of our recent proroguing of parliament, which kept the politicians out of parliament for at least a short time and at least delayed the addition of more legislation to the books.