Monday, July 31, 2006

Seventh and Eighth Golf Games of 2006

Andy Southmayd and I were able to get out for two rounds of golf while we and our families were in Vermont.

North Country Golf ClubNorth Country Golf Club
Early in the week, we headed across the islands at the top of Lake Champlain to Rouse'’s Point, New York, for 18 holes at the North Country Golf Club. We've played here each of the last several summers. We meet Andy's old friend and former Milton neighbor Rich, who vacations about the same time each year, just a bit farther south on Lake Champlain.

The North Country Golf Club is close to the Canadian border and seems to have members from both sides. One of my favorite hats is a North Country cap I bought a few years ago. It has crossed US and Canadian flags. Often, out on the course, we meet up with folks whose cursing (it is golf, after all) is in French.

About a week before we played, the club had hosted the Labatt's Invitational. In chatting with the bartender after our round, we heard that the Labatt's tournament, and for that matter, the Bud Light Tournament, always fill up quite quickly. I think we were told that the Labatt's featured 200 golfers and 400 cases of beer. Or something like that.

I had a few pars and was hitting some shots just they way they are meant to be hit. But I was still having a few "blow-up" holes. There was rain in the area, and our round wasn't completely dry, but we got in all 18 holes.

Alburg 4Alburg Golf Links
Late in the week, we set up a foursome from among Tyler Place guests and planned to play Bakersfield Country Club, a mountainside course in far northern Vermont that I love. But Bakersfield was going to have a tournament that day, so we made a visit instead to Alburg Golf Links, on one of the Champlain Islands.

Andy and I had played a Tyler Place Golf Scramble at Alburg five or six years back. It has since changed hands and I think has improved. We were joined on this occasion by Tim, with whom we'd played before, and Bob, a new friend on his first visit to the Tyler Place.

It was raining determinedly as we left Highgate Springs that morning; it often rains when I want to play golf in Vermont. I don't think any of us were convinced that we'd get many holes in, but as we came around a bend in the road and to the entrance to the course, the skies brightened and the rains stopped. We were able to play all 18.

Alburg 2Alburg looks like a wide-open course; it has sweeping views of Lake Champlain and a variety of elevations. It is a links-style course in some places and a mountain-meadow style in others. All holes feature an impenetrable rough. There is water, but most balls are lost in 10-inch grass.

I started out well, with good drives and a decent short game on the first few holes. I was going along swimmingly until Andy helpfully pointed out how often the universe acts to humble you when you start out a round so well. Sure enough, the third hole was a disastrous blow-up. After at, I had some good holes and some awful holes.

It was all quite fun, though a few holes on the back nine featured an astonishing number of biting flies.

I like playing in different areas, and I've now had my Lake Champlain golf fix for the year.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Oh, Goody. We're in the News Again

The New York Times yesterday included a story on the Indian River School District school prayer issue: Families Challenging Religious Influence in Delaware Schools (NYT Registration Required).

The story includes a quote from WGMD's Dan Gaffney. I'm sure he'll be pleased with the exposure.

I notice, looking at the Times' web site statistics this morning, that this is (as of 8:30 this morning) the sixth most e-mailed story and the fourteenth most blogged on their site.

I'll be curious to see whether this Times story is picked up in the larger blogging world.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Vacation Report, Part 3: At The Tyler Place

After our visits to the Statue of Liberty and Mystic Seaport, we headed to Highgate Springs, in northern Vermont, and the Tyler Place Family Resort. This is the eighth summer that we've spent a week at the Tyler Place, and we're not tired of it yet.

Five O'ClockThe Tyler Place is a large campus on the Vermont shore at the northern end of Lake Champlain. It sits about a mile south of the US/Canada border. There is an Inn, a wide variety of cabins, clubhouses, a pool, boat dock, tennis courts and more.

You stay a week, and pay a flat rate that covers accommodations, food, and most activities. The children have counselor-led group activities from early morning through early afternoon and again from late afternoon through early evening. It is very like summer camp, but with parents along to stay with at night and to play with for part of the afternoon.

Climbers 2While the kids are "at group", the adults are free to laze about, explore, or join in a variety of organized activities. Karen and I traditionally try to make the canoe trip, the mountain hike, and the kayak trip.

We particularly enjoy the mountain hike, as it includes a picnic lunch at The Three Holes, a swimming area in Montgomery Vermont that features a crystal clear, cold mountain stream cascading into three deep pools in a sunlit glade.

And we swam, in Lake Champlain and the Tyler Place pool. The lake swimming area includes a float, with a tall tower and slide on it. It is traditional for us to start our visits to the Tyler Place by sliding on this slide. Great fun, but the tower sways when you climb it, especially as a dozen kids frolic on the float below.

Kayaking 6This year, since I have a new digital camera, I was brave enough to take my old digital camera out on the Lake in a kayak for a photoset from water-level. I spent a lot of time on, and in, the water this summer. I tried out a small hobie cat sailboat. It was fitting, as I brought two novels from the Aubrey/Maturin series along for the week. My internal dialogue, as I sailed along, was all in 19th-century sailing terminology. It's a good thing no one was along to hear that.

I got out for two rounds of golf with Andy Southmayd. We played the North Country Golf Club, in Rouse's Point, New York, and the Alburg Golf Links, on one of the Champlain Islands. I'll write them up for my Golf in 2006 series, of course, but for this report, suffice it to say that it was great fun, even if my game was not great in itself.

In the evenings, the kids would head off to group again and we would gather in the Inn's spacious lounge for a gentle cocktail hour, followed by leisurely, excellent dinner. One of the things we particularly love about the Tyler Place is the opportunity to meet new folks. We had a ready-made group, of course, with Andy and Lynn along and with my brother Bob and his wife Karen. But we took advantage of the evening social events to find new friends. Each night, we tried to add new people to our large dinner table. We met some really cool people.

I could go on. And on. Let's finish this the way we ended many of our dinners, with a sunset over Lake Champlain.
Sunset 1

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Vacation Report, Part 2: A Mystic Tour

After a comfortable night at a small hotel just south of the Tapanzee Bridge, we headed north Friday morning (July 14), across southern New York and into Connecticut.

Our day's destination was the historic town of Mystic, where we spent a morning at the Seaport and an afternoon at the Aquarium.

BowI love Mystic Seaport. I am a fan of sailing ships and the sea. I repeatedly devour historical, tall-ship novels. I love to wander among old sailing ships, wood, cordage and canvas.

Karen and the girls are less enamored, but they were good-natured about it. At one point, I was explaining the working of a ship's windlass to Christina. Her eyes lit up and she started to tell me about a scene in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But she stopped short, remembering that I had not yet seen it. I saw the movie after we returned and there are, indeed, several scenes that make use of a windlass. I'm glad I was able to explain that to her a bit.

After lunch, we made the short drive to Mystic Aquarium. A well-put-together, if small and tourist-y place. Here we all were fascinated.

Swimming PenguinsChristina is a budding naturalist and Colleen loves the grace of many kinds of fish. She's always seen the beauty in jellyfish.

I love to watch the girls when they are deep into something like this. Their pleasure is a joy.

When we left the aquarium, after a full afternoon of touristicality, we cut across country to Hartford and up into Massachusetts.

We had dinner in Holyoke, near were my parents met as college students.

We headed north from there, towards our night's stay in southern Vermont.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Vacation Report, Part 1: At Liberty

Liberty Framed
We left on our northern trek on Thursday, July 13. We were due at The Tyler Place, in northern Vermont, on Saturday, but decided to ease our way up the eastern seaboard over a few days, playing tourist as we went.

We took the Cape May/Lewes Ferry over to New Jersey and drove up the Garden State Parkway to our first stop: Liberty State Park, across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

We took the Park's ferry to Ellis Island and then to Liberty Island. I think it would have been better had we driven the evening before, stayed somewhere close, and arrived at the Park in the early morning, rather than just after lunch, as we did. Then, we might have been in time to go into the Statue of Liberty. As it was we were only able to wander around the statue and Liberty Island itself.

Ellis Island also would have rewarded more time. We saw the Registration Room and some of the immigration museum. The girls were interested and I think we all would have enjoyed doing a search for those members of Karen's family that came through Ellis Island a few generations back. Next time.

We did enjoy watching the other tourists; there were folks from all over the US and around the world.

Liberty Island was very cool. I took advantage of the grounds to photograph the statue from all sides and to try some close-up shots and artistic shots.

The day was partly cloudy. But enough sun broke through to light New York City with the clouds as a backdrop. I was impressed with the beauty of Manhattan from the Hudson.

We'll need to go back to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty some day when we have more time.

We left there late and drove through horrific afternoon rush hour traffic to the Palisades Parkway and north to a hotel just over the New York/New Jersey border.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

And ... We're Back

We rolled back into Lewes a bit past five this evening after ten days on the road.

We traveled to the most northern part of Vermont, stayed a week, and returned.

On the way we visited Ellis and Liberty Islands and Mystic Seaport and Aquarium. We drove through six states and several heavy rain storms. We rode on the Cape May/Lewes Ferry (twice).

We ate bad food at highway rest stops. We found a wonderful Italian restaurant in Sugarloaf, New York.

We took 1,106 photos. I have started working through those and will be posting some of them on Flickr over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


There will be a blogging pause for a while. We're heading north to Vermont for our annual stay at the Tyler Place. The car is packed. The house-sitter has arrived. We're ready to roll.

When on vacation, I suspend all work, all web surfing, all e-mail, all blogging.

It's time to disconnect...

Sunday, July 9, 2006

We Do Welcome Guest Workers

Kings Ice CreamI was proud this week of Lewes' Tom and Chris King, owners of King's Ice Cream and a prime example of what it means to have class.

There'’s an article in Friday'’s Cape Gazette about a recent incident at King'’s Ice Cream in which patrons were not willing to be served by young women from Russia who are in our area working at Kings.

We have a large number of young people from many countries in our area each summer. We depend on them to help fill the many service jobs our summer resort economy demands. They come to us from Russia, Poland, France, the United Kingdom, and other European nations.

In this case, a patron balked at being served by someone "not an American." I hope that this particular boob was a visitor, and not one of our own. It seems likely, since people who live here are well used to waiters and counter staff with accented though usually perfectly serviceable English.

It just seems wrong to object to guest-workers in an area such as this, where the demand for vacation homes and hotel rooms has driven housing costs so high that few working people can afford to live close enough to the beach to be able to fill the many jobs needed to feed, clothe and entertain all the vacationers.

We have to have student workers. If some proportion of those workers is from other counties, we should welcome them and take advantage of an opportunity to learn more about the nations from which many of our own forbears came to America.

Tom King showed his practical side when he posted a sign in his business saying that he is proud to employ young people from Russia and hopes his patrons will join him in welcoming them to our shores.

Tom and his wife Chris showed an extra level of class, though. According to the news story, they have welcomed their workers into their home as well, giving their temporary staffers room and board in their house while they are working here.

One of the problems we face in having so many summer workers, domestic and imported, is housing them fairly and safely. Man of these young people are treated badly and taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords.

Good for Tom and Chris King. I'm proud to have them as leaders of the Lewes business community.

Update: The story that prompted this post is now available on the Cape Gazette web site (Some customers reject foreign servers at King's Ice Cream). Also, the Tuesday edition of the paper includes a great editorial cartoon and some letters to the editor about the issue, one rather strongly worded. (Note: The two last links here will not persist past Friday, 7/14.)

Saturday, July 8, 2006

It Really is a Small World

The other day I stumbled across an AP story on the Chicago Sun-Times web site that represents one of those odd intersections of interest and personal history.

The story -- Tax breaks rolled out for hybrid-car buyers -- is from January 1 of this year. It is about the new tax breaks for hybrid cars, including the Prius, which I drive.

I found it when I was reviewing Performancing statistics on my blog. I like to see what web-searches have led people to my site.

In this case, I noted that someone had found me by searching Google for John Krivit. That's the name of one of the members of my rock band in high school. That search led someone to an entry I had written back in 2004 about Googling for my old friends from The Ramblin' Beach Guys (RBGs).

Just below that on the search results was a link to the AP story about the Prius tax break. John Krivit is quoted as a Prius owner, which is a fine coincidence. What really freaked me, though, was that the story is by John Heilprin, our old drummer.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Are We About to Become the Next Dover, PA?

I find myself wondering if Sussex County is about to become the next Dover, Pennsylvania.

The suit against the Indian River School Board over overtly Christian prayers at school functions had been percolating along in local media for the last year without attracting much national attention. This week, that has started to change.

Aspects of the lawsuit and local reaction to it have been picked up by several blogs around the US, including Jesus' General, Daily Kos, and Bartholomew's notes on religion. The story has also now come to the attention of several Delaware bloggers, including Delawareliberal (twice, thrice), first slate, and Karmically Speaking.

It is getting some interesting discussion.

Full disclosure: my wife Karen is an employee of the Indian River School District and my daughters have profited from attending one of the better schools in the District. Though we live in the neighboring Cape Henlopen District, we "choiced" both girls into the Southern Delaware School of the Arts in the Indian River District. Colleen has just graduated eighth grade and next fall will attend Sussex Vocational Technical High School, which has its own, county-wide district status.

I have taken notice of the School Prayer story here from time to time. Either in passing, while covering other issues in that District, or directly, as parts of the story have played out. Beyond that, I probably shouldn't go. Conflicts of interest.

Still, I am interested to see the reaction as this story spreads. I hope people around the world won't assume that all of Sussex County is intolerant of variety and other religions. They are not.

Unfortunately, some are. Further, there is a strong feeling in some quarters, mistaken, I think, that asking the school board to not officially proselytize is somehow to restrict their ability to practice their faith at all.

While I do not agree with this position, I will say that, faced with such deeply held beliefs -- right or wrong -- it will take patience and forbearance to work through to a more tolerant society.

I think the school board is in the wrong. But I know it will take time to move them. Patience, tolerance, and steady moral pressure will, eventually, solve the problem.

Tending to the Blogroll

Here we are at the start of another month. Time to check the blogroll.

I had thought about replacing this with a collection of bookmark categories, but I think that would get me too wrapped up in categorizing. I've decided to stay with a blogroll of Delaware-related blogs and blogs I'm interested in and leave it at that.

As usual, I will remove any blogs that have lain fallow for a month or so.

Most active Delaware blog-readers are well aware that DelaThought has withdrawn from what was turning into rather a fray. I won't link to his or her site; it has been hi-jacked by some sort of icky real-estate spam site.

Willard has not updated DelaWhyte since June 9. He was down to only a post or two a month lately.

Mike R.'s Oblogation has been quiet for just over a month. He last took notice of an impressive thunderstorm. Remember back when they were rare? Was it only a month ago?

I'm pulling Philly Future. Not because it isn't active. It is. But I don't feel drawn to read it any more.

Ditto for The Hungarian Knight. It is active. And it is by someone in Delaware, but it is not about Delaware.

Other than these changes, I have to say that the Delaware Blog Community has been active and interesting lately. Things are heating up?!

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

At Bethany Beach for the Fourth of July

Parade in Brass
As is our tradition, we went to Bethany Beach for the Fourth of July Parade.

Each year, we join my parents and elements of the Mahaffie clan along the Parade route where I love to greet statewide and local politicians. This year we had a good selection, including Senator Tom Carper and Governor Ruth Ann Minner.

FlagMany of the parade entrants were handing out American flags. Very patriotic. It was not one of the politicians that was distributing plastic US flags clearly marked as "Made in China." My sister-in-law Karen pointed this out to me, after the folks handing these out had passed.

After the parade, we spent the afternoon on the beach. It was such a hot day, the cold Atlantic water felt very good. We floated, and sat, and made sand castles, until almost 5. It's remarkable how burned you can get.

In the evening, we sat around my folks' house, drinking beer, chatting, snacking, and enjoying family and friends. We ate burgers and dogs, with pasta salad and macaroni and cheese, and veggies and hummus.

And there was dessert, while we waited for the sun to set and the Bethany fireworks to start. Unfortunately, a large thunderstorm rolled in and put paid to the fireworks show. So we sat and watched lightning from the living room.

It was a long, hot, tiring, but fun day. So much fun, in fact, that I found myself wide awake in the small hours of this morning, suffering from a righteous indigestion brought on by all that holiday enjoyment.

Sixth Golf Game of 2006

Par 3Andy Southmayd and I played Old Landing Golf Course outside of Rehoboth Beach yesterday morning.

It was a hot and buggy 18 holes. Andy broke 100. I didn't. In fact, my score was worse than I had hoped, based on some of my recent outings. But I see signs of hope.

Rather than my usual steady mediocrity, in which I score consistent double or triple bogeys on most holes, I was up and down yesterday. I managed par on three holes, but always followed those holes with disastrous blow-ups.

On one par three, I hit my tee shot to within about 4 feet. My birdie try came close, stopping an inch or so short of the hole. I thought about that putt too much and tried to be too careful.

I also brought my driver out of my bag more often on this round than I have in the past. I'm inconsistent with it, but I think it is a viable option at this point.

I'll try to fit in one or two more lunchtimes at the driving range before we head off to Vermont and its challenging mountainside golf courses.

Old Landing was in better shape than it has been in a while. We last played there two summers back, and we were not impressed. Last year, I understand, the course was horrible. They were re-doing the greens and for parts of the summer, there were no greens at all on much of the course. They were better this year, though many of the fairways still need work.

And it was hot. And buggy. The flies were in heated competition with the mosquitoes to see which could be more annoying. We like to walk our 18 holes, where we can, but by the 17th hole we were regretting it somewhat.

Still, we had fun. And when we were done, we headed to Bethany to meet our families, enjoy the parade, and float in the cool cool ocean.

More on that later. Just now, I better head out to work.
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