Archive for August 21, 2009


August 21, 2009 Leave a comment


It’s not like me to let an entire major golf championship go by without commenting on it. So what happened last week? Well, I was so busy watching it that I didn’t take the time to write about it. I figured I would wait until the end. And then, when the end came — I need to learn a way to deal better with this — I found the result so painful that I put all thoughts of the tournament out of my mind. No blog posts, no reading of online or newspaper coverage. Yesterday my copy of Golf World came. Surprise PGA winner Y.E. Yang was on the cover. I haven’t looked inside yet.

The thing is, this is completely nuts. One of the greatest upsets in golf history took place. Tiger has won 14 majors, the last being the dramatic 2008 US Open victory prior to surgery. Tiger is back from surgery, has done poorly in the first 3 majors of the year, but is on a roll. Has won 5 tournaments this season, the last two in a row. He’s poised to win PGA #5 (which would tie him for most with Nicklaus and Hagen), major #15, increasing his lead on all golfers besides Nicklaus while moving closer to NIcklaus’s record of 18), plus his third tournament in a row and sixth of the year. His 14 major victories all came after entering the final round in the lead, alone or tied. Two points here — whenever he leads a major going into the final round, he wins, and that’s the only way he has won a major.

So what does Tiger do? He shoots a 67 to take the first round lead by a stroke over defending champion Padraig Harrington. He opens up a four-stroke lead in the second round. Many observers are conceding the tournament to him. A sloppy third day costs him two strokes off his lead. But he always wins when leading with a day to go. Doesn’t he? Even if others draw even, as they did, he finds a way. He wills the ball into the hole.

Not this time. Entering the final round, both Harrington and South Korean Y.E. Yang were two back. By shooting the better third-round score of the two, Yang earned the right to pair with Woods in the final round, with Harrington playing one pair ahead. Newcomers to final pairings on final days of majors have a long history of shooting high 70s or 80 and fading fast. Even newcomers who go on to greatness. Soon the camera finds a way of ignoring them, so you forget who that other guy in the final pair is. This was Yang’s likely fate, as Woods would fight it out with Harrington, if anyone at all.

Alas, Harrington shot an 8 on the par 3 eighth hole, ending his chances. And Yang just wouldn’t go away. Indeed, after an amazing chip in for eagle 2 on the short par 4 14th hole, Yang led. They had been tied for the lead on the 14th tee, and this was Woods’ chance to regain the lead. He birdied, but left the hole 1 stroke behind.

This is where Tiger has always excelled, going back to his days in junior golf, his great match play victories in the US Amateur, and most recently in his victory over Rocco Mediate in last year’s US Open. He always gets that birdie when he needs it, or intimidates his playing partner.

Nope. They both parred 15 and 16. They both bogeyed 17. And Yang finished it off with a birdie on 18 to Woods’ bogey.

A win for the ages. How could anyone not marvel at the Yang’s composure, his great approach shot on 18, his fearlessness, his swing, his tenacity. His win.

Me, I couldn’t. I was too busy fidgeting, waiting for Tiger to produce some magic, or for Yang to explode. Not that I ever root for someone to do something bad, but I sure wanted Tiger to win. And so, rather than being thrilled by Yang’s victory, I was too busy being anxious, and then in mourning. A major isn’t complete until I see the analysis on the Golf Channel. Not this time.

If you’ve been keeping score, you’ll know that this is the second major in a row that I didn’t let myself enjoy, whose ending left me an emotional wreck. A month ago, I behaved much the same way after Tom Watson missed the par putt on 18 that would have given him the British Open on the virtual eve of his 60th birthday. My greatest sporting pleasure — following the unfolding narrative of a major golf tournament — has become my worst sporting nightmare.

I understand the problem. It’s a familiar one. The curse of being a fan. Instead of maintaining emotional distance and allowing the drama to unfold, marveling at its twists and turns, I am hoping for a particular outcome. There are two problems with this, the emotional one that it leads to disappointment more often than not and the aesthetic-cognitive one that I’m I can’t appreciate what the beauty of what I’m watching because I’m too invested in a particular result. In other sports, I have learned to do a better job maintaining distance. I don’t know how to do that with golf.

It may be time to give golf up. Which is too bad, because I’d already been talking to Gail about whether we should try to get down to Pebble Beach in June for the US Open or over to St. Andrews in July for the British Open. We’ve only been to one US Open, in 2002 at Bethpage Black on Long Island. And to one British Open, in 2004 at Troon. (Not counting 1990, when I went to the second day of the Open at St. Andrews, as Gail stayed behind in Edinburgh with Joel, who had just turned 3.) I was thinking we should make sure to go to one of the two, if not both. Forget that. It’s time to cancel my Golf World subscription, block the Golf Channel on TV, move on. Or else get a sports psychologist. Just about every golfer has one. Maybe it would help.

Congratulations Y.E. What a win!

Categories: Golf, Sports

Gay Search-and-Replace

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, Osaka 2007 World Championships

Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, Osaka 2007 World Championships

[Stu Forster/Getty Images]

Last month I wrote about the dangers of search-and-replace algorithms, making reference to a post by Benjamin Zimmer at Language Log in which he discussed some examples, his post being precipitated by the Chicago Tribune online obit for Walter Cronkite that had “Mr.” inserted before every appearance of his name. (For example, there was a quote from his daughter, “Kathy Mr. Cronkite.”)

In my post, I quoted Zimmer’s passage that recalled other examples of unfortunate search-and-replacing, the most interesting of which was the replacement of “gay” by “homosexual” at the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow site, resulting in the American Sprinter Tyson Gay becoming Tyson Homosexual. Zimmer has a fuller treatment of the Gay-Homosexual gaffe in a Language Log post he wrote just after the 2008 US Olympic Trials, where Gay won the 100 meter race but injured himself in the 200 meters. (As a result of the injury, Gay didn’t qualify to run in the 200m at the Beijing Olympics, and because of a re-aggravation of the injury, he failed to qualify at the Olympics for the 100 meter finals.) Zimmer includes screen shots of OneNewsNow headlines such as, “Homosexual runs wind-aided 9.68 seconds to make Olympics.” Zimmer explains that the “American Family Association is a conservative Christian group chaired by Donald Wildmon, dedicated in part to combating the ‘homosexual agenda.’ This fight apparently includes changing all instances of gay in its online news outlet to homosexual.”

I mention all this again because as I was watching the men’s 100 meter races at the IAAF World Championships last weekend,* I couldn’t stop myself from thinking of and laughing at Tyson Gay’s new moniker every time I saw him. Plus, I was early in my reading of Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France last weekend, as a result of which I was simultaneously in the process of re-adjusting myself to the old-fashioned use of “gay” as happy-merry-lively. (I finished the book two nights ago. See last night’s post.) In recounting her early months in Paris, where she moved with her husband Paul in 1948, Child repeatedly uses “gay” to describe events and people. I would love to re-read those passages after the application of overzealous, wrong-headed search-and-replace.

*Recall that Gay entered this week’s IAAF World Championships in Berlin as the defending champion from the 2007 Osaka world championship in both the 100 meter and 200 meter races. He is no longer the top sprinter in the world, but still can lay claim to best in the world as we know it, since Usain Bolt seems to be from another planet. Bolt won both 100m and 200m races at the Beijing Olympics last year in world record time. In Berlin this week, Bolt set world records yet again in winning both events. (See my post on the 100m and my post on the 200m.) Gay was second in Sunday’s 100m, running the fastest non-Boltian time ever. Due again to injury, Gay withdrew from the 200m.

Categories: Books, Language, Sports, Stupidity

Bureaucratic Play

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment
French consulate regions

French consulate regions

It’s hardly news that bureaucratic functionaries love to toy with people. Who can blame them? One has to have some fun in one’s life. As a result, I’ve been anxious for months about Joel’s need to get a student visa for his time in France this fall. It’s required for any stay of over 90 days, and Joel will be studying in Grenoble from early September through December 19. The rules are that you need to show up in person at the consulate to which your home region is assigned, do so at least two weeks ahead of departure, and bring a long list of documents.

My first worry was, is Joel eligible to submit the application at the Boston consulate? If they insisted that Seattle is his home address, he would have to go down to San Francisco. (There seems to be no way around showing up in person at one of the ten consulates around the country. See the map here, also copied above. Notice that Louisiana gets its own consulate, which I suppose makes historical sense. So does Florida. I can’t imagine why.)

My second worry was that Joel would get around to it too late, especially if he showed up for his appointment in Boston and was told they can’t do it, he has to go to SF. My third worry was that he’d have failed to comply with some paperwork requirement, as interpreted by the fonctionnaire. And my fourth worry was simply that they’d screw him, just for the heck of it, like a cat toying with a mouse.

So anyway, Joel flies out of Boston a week from Sunday, nine days from now, to London and then Paris. That means to meet the two-week-prior requirement, he should have been to the consulate by last Friday at the latest. It didn’t work out that way. When he got around to making an appointment, the best he could do was three days ago, Tuesday morning of this week. In Boston. He had other things on his mind, like finishing up his summer half-term classes a week ago. This would be the week to deal with visa and apartment. Gail flew to Boston Monday, arriving that night, and got up way early (Seattle time) Tuesday morning so she could accompany him to the consulate. One of the paperwork requirements was a document attesting that your parents could provide for you financially, so what better way was there to do that than to have a parent present?

I wasn’t there, so I’m not the one to tell the consulate story. The main point is that the consulate official, noting that Joel had not met the two-week requirement, said that the best she could do is get the visa sent to us at the end of next week. Next Friday. It could be sent FedEx. Indeed, that’s the only option, and one of the items you need to bring is a prepaid FedEx mailer, which fortunately Joel arranged to get on Monday afternoon. That night I gave him our account number so it could be charged to us. Now, the thing is, it would be sent Friday to Seattle and Joel would be flying Sunday to France. That doesn’t quite work. Unless we pay extra for FedEx Saturday delivery, which we agreed to do. And even that doesn’t work very well. It means Joel can’t fly from Seattle back to Boston that Saturday morning, and flying out Sunday morning wouldn’t allow him to catch the 6:00PM flight from Boston to London. Well, there’s always overnight, and that’s what I booked him on, once we had all the information. The plan, then, was: visa sent Friday, visa arrives Saturday, Joel takes off Saturday night, arrives in Boston Sunday morning, kills 10 hours, takes off for London Sunday night.

I could say more, but again I wasn’t there. Like, there was the mother and daughter who cut in front of Joel and two other parties, all having 10AM appointments at the consulate. There is no first-come, first served apparently. Some fonctionnaire, ready to take the next case, asked for a 10AM appointment, and this mother jumped. But the galling thing is that they got their visa immediately, because there wasn’t enough time to send it, whereas Joel couldn’t even have his shipped a day sooner to simplify life.

Okay, so here’s the punch line. The visa came. An hour ago. The doorbell rang, I saw a FedEx truck out the window, I ran like hell to the front door so I wouldn’t miss him. I took the envelope from him, opened it up, and there was Joel’s passport, with visa glued to a page.

Let’s review. The consulate got his application Tuesday. They processed it Wednesday. They shipped it Thursday. It arrived Friday. No big deal. But we were told they wouldn’t ship it until next Friday. Our mild effort to ask if it could be sent sooner was met with the observation that we were late in getting there. Tough luck. We would have to pay the FedEx Saturday delivery fee, and if something went wrong, Joel wouldn’t be making his flights. Plus, because of the anticipated Saturday delivery, I had to book Joel on an overnight flight to Boston through JFK.

It’s here. We can relax. That’s the important thing. But what was the point of all the toying with us? Oh, I guess I already answered that at the beginning. Just because. One has to have some fun.

Further good news is that Gail and Joel have succeeded, as of 2 hours ago, in emptying Joel’s apartment, turning in the key, getting rid of the rental car, and checking out of the hotel room. Three days of hard work. Now they just have to wait for tonight’s flight, already scheduled over an hour late, with an arrival time in Seattle after 1:00 AM local time. It’s going to be a long day.

Categories: Culture, Family, Government, Travel