Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Time of Change

Delaware's fiscal year ends tonight. Many things will be different in my state, and in the state government in which I serve, tomorrow.

We hope that there will be a balanced budget to start the next fiscal year. The legislature had about a potential deficit of about $800,000,000 to overcome. At best, that means I get a pay cut starting tomorrow.

At least partly because of that planned pay cut, lots of people are retiring from state government. And given the budget situation, not all of them will be fully replaced. so it will be a different workforce.

Among those stepping down is the head of the Delaware State Police. Col. Thomas F. Mac Leish was going to have to retire in August anyway. There's an age limit for the State Police.

His replacement -- acting replacement, anyway -- is Major Joe Papili. I have gotten to know Joe Papili somewhat over the last few years. He seems like a good man.

I realize that, while I myself am not rising to the highest levels of state government (thank goodness), many of the people now stepping into leadership are my contemporaries and in some cases friends and acquaintances. It gives me a whole new view of things.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Eighth Golf Game of 2009

I took Friday off this past week to head upstate and join in the hopefully (but generally not) annual Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) golf outing. My friend Sandy Schenck organizes these. They usually involve DGS staff, University of Delaware staff and professors, and assorted Delaware GIS people. Like me.

We played at Delcastle Golf course, which is in New Castle County near Milltown. It's a nice course, with lots of elevation changes and some challenging holes.

I played badly. I'd like to blame the heat, which was respectable. I'd like to blame the elevation changes, which are a real change for me. I might even try to blame the skills of my fellow players, who were dauntingly good. But the bottom line is I played badly.

There were several foursomes. I was playing with a group of GIS-geeks -- joining Pat Susi, the GIS chief for New Castle County, Brian Smith, with a company called GeoDecisions, and John Laznik, a GIS pro at UD. Pat is a solid player; we played together in early May. I've also played with Brian, a very good golfer, at the first of the DGS outings I joined, in 2006. John Laznik was almost a surprise. I had heard he can play, but was not aware of just how far he can crush a drive. Very impressive.

It is true, though no excuse, that I was pressing too hard to try to play like these guys. I was over swinging and making foolish club choices. I stuck with my driver, with less success than in other recent games. And I was trying to do too much with my hybrids; trying to make up ground. My best holes were those where I played within myself and accepted that I wasn't going to hit it as far as any of my partners. Hit it straight, be patient, and take what you can.

So I ended up with a poor 119. Pat broke 100 with a 94. Brian carded an 89 and John an 84.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seventh Golf Game of 2009 (Second Half)

I had the evening off from my Chautauqua gig tonight so I headed over to Old Landing Golf Course after work to finish the game that was rained-out on Saturday. The two sets of nine holes couldn't have been more different. Saturday was wet and raining and threatening thunder. This evening there were clouds, but clear air and eventually evening sunshine. And my play was different too.

Saturday, I played poorly and shot a 59 on the front 9. Nothing was working well. The weather may have played a role, but I doubt it.

This evening, despite a poor beginning (how many putts can one man putt?), I started to hit the ball the way I want to hit it. I still had some putting problems, and the occasionally topping of the ball on the fairway, but I managed a 49, which is one of my best-ever 9-hole scores.

I scored one par and five bogeys. I have a goal to try to average 18 bogeys someday. If I can do that on a par 72 course, I'd have a 90. And I'm trying to break 100, so...

I was particularly pleased this evening with the 12th hole at Old Landing. This is a long, blind drive, par-5 that curls left from the tee box, over a slight rise and across a stagnant creek to a sloping green. It plays about 500 yards from the white tees.

Usually, I struggle along in the rough, through the trees, and often into the creek before carding something nasty on this hole. Not tonight.

I've reached an accord with my driver. When I hit it well, the ball goes straight, if not hugely long. Tonight I placed my drive about halfway along and in the center of the 12th fairway. My second shot laid-up well to the top of the slope that leads down to the water. Then I put a 7-iron about 10 feet from the pin (the photo above right was the result).

Had I made that putt, I'd have scored a birdie (not my first, but they are still rare). I was too cautious though, and came up short. But I was happy with the par.

Over-all, I think tonight I had more of the shots that keep you coming back than those that make you hang your head. I like that.

At the Chautauqua Tent Show

I'm spending most of my evenings this weekend in downtown Lewes serving as master of ceremonies for the 11th Annual Chautauqua Tent Show. The Chautauqua is a project of the state's Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the Lewes Historical Society and is focused on major historical figures. Actors portraying PT Barnum, Frederick Douglas, William Shakespeare, David Douglas, The Lone Ranger, and Annie Oakley present lectures throughout the week under a smallish big-top tent. There are also afternoon family activities each day. The evenings start with music groups each evening at 6, followed by the main act at 7. The photo at right is the group Slyte of Hand, from Sunday evening.

My job is fairly simple. I thank the Delaware Humanities forum and other sponsors and funding agencies. I tout the door-prize drawing. I thank the organizing committee. I point out the restrooms. And I introduce the performers. While they are on-stage, I can wander around with my camera (as I tend to do). I have started a photo set, but so far have only posted shots from Sunday.

Monday night's show was interrupted by a heavy downpour that suggested one of the windy, heavy, thunderstorms we've been getting late. It was nasty-looking enough that organizers stopped the opening band and moved everyone into the Zwaanendael Museum (we were in a tent just outside). We split the audience into two groups; the band played acoustically upstairs while Frederick Douglas spoke to a group on the main floor. After a while, Mr. Douglas moved upstairs and the band moved back to the tent, as the storm had moved on. It was a little crazy, but I think it worked.

Tonight, there's a concert by the US Navy Commodores, part of the 2009 Lewes Summer Concert Series. so, while there will be the usual afternoon family activities, there won't be an evening show. But I'll be back before the mic on Wednesday with my notes, my smile, and my camera.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today...

...but Sergeant Pepper had long since retired.

Anyway, this is what I was doing exactly 30 years ago today. It was the final day of my junior year at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda Maryland and The Ramblin' Beach Guys (my old High school band) got permission to play a short set at lunchtime out in "the quad."

From left to right, we were:
  • Danny Miller (lead guitar),now a film editor in Hollywood.
  • Peter Saal (bass), who only played with us a few times and of whom I have lost track.
  • David Halperin (singer), who went on to work on presidential campaigns and in the White house and who is now at the center for American progress.
  • John Heilprin (drums), now the AP's United Nations correspondent.
  • John Krivit (sometimes bass and mostly singer), who now teaches audio and media technology in colleges around Boston.
  • And me (rhythm guitar), now a toiling minor functionary in a small state's government.
According to Danny, who is archivist for this once little-known and now mostly unknown group, we played a short set of rock and punk that day:
  • Route 66 (probably The Stones version)
  • Rockaway Beach (The Ramones)
  • Is She Really Going Out With Him (Joe Jackson and a challenge for a novice guitarist)
  • Lip Service/I Remember You (Elvis Costello and ?)
  • Surrender (Cheap Trick)
  • Imagination (The Stones)
  • Hippy Hippy Shake (We probably based ours on the version played by The Razz in those days)
I think it's interesting that on two June 20s I am playing a small, supporting role in a performance. Rhythm guitar in 1979 and the briefly on-stage Simon in Stinkin' Rich in 2009.
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Seventh Golf Game of 2009 (first half?)

I managed to squeeze-in 9 holes at Old Landing Golf Course this morning before the light rain and distant rumbling became heavy downpours and thunder. The gent in the clubhouse was kind enough to offer me a 9-hole rain check after we stood together and watched a green, yellow and red mass moving in on the weather channel radar.

I have to say I played poorly. I think I was listening too hard for thunder and lightning from the first tee and so not being patient enough. I did settle down some, though, after it began to rain softly and without thunder. I had my share of good shots and finally managed to play the long, bending road-side par-5 -- where I am usually in the trees to the right -- out in the fairway where a gentleman should play.

I'm not sure when I'll play the second half of game 7. The forecast for tomorrow is not promising. But we'll see.

Some People Just Can't Stay Out of the News

I think I had honestly started to forget about Bobby Jacobs, one-time wunderkind head of a local sports tournament that collapsed into scandal some years ago. Well, he's back and facing charges of harassment, according to a story on the WBOC web site: Former Basketball Tournament Director Arrested for Stalking.
Troopers say they were called in to investigate after letters were sent to the Cape Henlopen School District accusing a teacher of inappropriate misconduct with students. They say the letters continued not only to the school district but also to Wesley College in Dover, accusing a coach of similar misconduct. In addition, troopers say letters were sent to Legislative Hall accusing a department secretary in similar behavior.
Their investigation found the letters questionable and likely from a fictitious source. They also noted that all three of those targeted were once involved with the group that had oversight of the Slam Dunk to the Beach basketball tournament:
All three individuals, according to police, who were accused of the misconduct , were once involved with the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association. The organization was formerly known as the Delaware Scholastic Secondary Athletic Association. This organization oversaw the "Slam Dunk to the Beach Tournament" which Jacobs was the director.
The Slam Dunk tournament was a local institution for some years, but after a time started to look a little fishy to me. Eventually, it fell apart after questions started to arise regarding scholarships that were promised but not delivered. Mr. Jacobs abruptly canceled the 2004 event and was on the run for several years, hiding in Florida before being brought back to Delaware to face charges.

Police traced the letters back to their origins, found evidence linking them to Jacobs, searched his home and found even more evidence on his computer.

The result? More charges against Bobby Jacobs, and we once again have to follow this guys sad sack story.

Update: The Dover Post story on this includes a clarifying detail:
The three individuals allegedly targeted by the letters had helped police in their investigation of the Jacob’s misappropriating Slam Dunk funds after he cancelled the 2004 tourney and dropped out of sight. He was charged with theft and jailed for two years after his capture by U.S. marshals in Miami.
(A tip of the hat to twitterer @oceanviewde for leading me to this story)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

At The Range

Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I've not been able to get out and play golf for a while, but I did head out to Midway Par 3 to hit a large bucket of balls at the driving range this evening.

I wanted to try out my two different drivers and see which will work best. And I worked my way through a few other clubs. It was a way to stay loose, get some motion in, and have some fun.

A couple of fellows came along and started hitting balls a short way down the line of mats. One was teaching the other to play. As much as I tried to not listen, I found the guy's advice to his friend starting to affect my swing. That's the worst thing you can do.

Over the years I have developed a serviceable, if ugly, swing. It usually works for me, though it is probably more appropriate to an arthritic, one-armed, 80-year old pensioner in a back-brace.

Listening, even unwillingly, to proper swing-advice just doesn't help. I think, frankly, that it may be too late.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Back on Stage at Possum Hall

I've taken a small role in a production by the Possum Point Players, a community theater in Georgetown Delaware where I spent many days, pre-kids.

The show is Stinkin' Rich, a retelling of Moliere's The Miser, set in 1929 in New York. I'm playing Simon, a lawyer and go-between who is on-stage for all of 30 seconds or so. The director is my old friend Nina Galerstein, who introduced me to the Lovely Karen. She asked me to jump in and take the small role and I decided, "why not?"

It has been a good long while since I've been on stage at Possum Hall as an actor. Back in 2004 I helped out as a stage-hand. I used to be a regular, but as the children came along and their activities took precedence, I stepped away. I'm enjoying getting back on-stage again in a speaking role. I like playing Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker for the girl's dance school. But it's cool to be using my voice again.

I've been taking rehearsal pictures, which may give you a preview of the show. I'll also note that fellow blogger Kim Klabe is a part of this production, playing a worldly operator named Rose.

The show opens this Friday and runs Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons, for the next two weeks.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I saw "congratulations," spelled that way, with a "d," written in soap on the back window of a truck at Sussex Tech today. We were there for a graduation ceremony, so I assume that the misspelling was intentional and a celebration of someone having completed high school.

Our Colleen will graduate next year, so this was rehearsal, in a way. And we were there in support of our friends Andy and Lynne; their eldest, Rachel, was Class President and a speaker at the ceremony. That's her, at right.

Colleen's young man, Michael, also graduated, as did several of her friends, some of whom we've known since they started school. It's cool to see how they have grown into fine young men and women.