Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Islands in the Stream of Consciousness

Islands in the Stream is my favorite Hemingway book and Hemingway is one of my favorite authors, sometimes I say he is my favorite author, though I usually say Faulkner or Wolfe and since I live in Chapel Hill, where Wolfe attended college, and my son recently moved to Asheville, Wolfe's hometown and the setting for Look Homeward, Angel, I find him even more relevant to my life.  I wonder, though, why UNC makes such a big deal of Thomas Wolfe being an alumnus, a monument and a library dedicated to him even though his novel makes it clear that his first choice was Vanderbilt, but never seems to mention Walker Percy, also an alum, when The Moviegoer is frequently ranked higher among the great Southern novels than Wolfe's books.  Heck, James Polk was President of the United States and UNC doesn't exactly trumpet that he was a Tar Heel (probably had no jump shot) and I'm really only talking books here, because my favorite Hemingway piece is not a book, but a short story about fly-fishing called Big Two-Hearted River  and although the book is called Islands in the Stream, it refers to the gulf stream-- saltwater, and I'm partial to trout streams, like the one in the short story.  Regardless, I'm reading Faulkner right now.

Absalom, Absalom is an amazing book, though extremely difficult to read because Faulkner uses a stream of consciousness style with no punctuation, few paragraphs, sentences that run on for pages and, to make sure the reader is completely confused, he often introduces new characters as if the reader already knew them and reveals the plot by repeating it many times from the perspective of narrators who each know only a part of the story.  So, this has got me thinking about how I think and how difficult it is to think about how someone else thinks, and especially to read about how someone else thinks, with all the mental ramblings that go on in our own heads, instead of pursuing a straight path to a logical conclusion.  It works pretty well in our own heads but it doesn't really travel well.  I wonder what Urban Meyer was thinking when he resigned as head football coach of Florida yesterday, though I don't really care that much because I'm not a Florida fan, quite the opposite in fact, I'm a fan of Kentucky, who is playing in the Music City Bowl tonight, a game I will no doubt watch after composing my random thoughts here.  An unfortunate side effect of the Internet is the ability to share one's stream of consciousness in near real time; I just read on Twitter that Urban Meyer has decided not to retire, a single day after announcing to the world that he would retire, and I wonder even more now what he might be thinking, and I think one should continue the thought process to its logical conclusion in privacy before calling a press conference, instead of revealing one's thoughts as a public work-in-progress, a belief that Urban Meyer apparently doesn't share.

Kentucky and Florida are basketball rivals and that interests me more than football.  Florida's basketball coach, Billy Donovan, played and coached with Rick Pitino, who coached Kentucky for eight years, then went to instate rival Louisville, for which I bear no grudge except to hope that he rots in hell; a bit harsh, perhaps, so maybe my real feelings lie somewhere between no grudge and rots in hell and I'm just trying to find my place along the spectrum between the two, as North Carolina fans would no doubt do if, for instance, Roy Williams decided to take the Duke job.  A few years back, Kentucky tried to hire Billy Donovan, but he snubbed their advances, opting instead to accept a coaching job in the NBA for about a week before deciding he had made a big mistake and would return to the University of Florida.  What is it with Florida coaches and decisions, anyway?  Isn't the job of a coach almost entirely to make decisions? what play should we run, coach?. . . pass. . .no, run. . .wait, pass!  Pass!  Yeah, that's it: pass. . .but then run.

Kentucky basketball is currently in the news because they hired John Calipari to coach the Wildcats and he recruited several NBA-bound freshmen who are currently 12-0 in the 2009-10 basketball season.  There are a lot of haters out there, notably including Bobby Knight, who believe Calipari cheats and can't understand why players he recruited while at Memphis would follow him to Kentucky, though the same haters would follow a chef to his new restaurant, avoiding the unknown chef who replaced him at his previous place of employment, knowing that the quality of the meal is primarily dependent upon who cooks it and not who sells it, and if they thought about it for two seconds would realize that the futures of these players in the NBA depend not upon having played for Memphis or Kentucky or UNC or Duke, but upon having played for Calipari or Williams or Krzyzewski or the like wherever they coached; otherwise, star NBA prospects would have flocked to Billie Gillispie at Kentucky, and that didn't happen.

Bobby Knight may have been a great basketball coach and he may even have a few correct ideas about changes needed within the NCAA, but in questioning Calipari's integrity, he was a very large pot calling the kettle black, or perhaps he was smoking pot, because his major accomplishment in attacking Calipari seems to have been to bring his own questionable behaviors back into the news spotlight for a generation of fans who might not have been old enough to witness them firsthand (many were televised) or for those older fans who witnessed but forgot them, including throwing a chair across the basketball floor on national television after being called for a technical foul, choking a player, belittling the crime of  rape in an interview with Connie Cheung (also on national television), getting arrested for assaulting a Puerto Rican policeman while representing his country in the 1979 Pan American Games (probably on Puerto Rican television), firing his shotgun at a man's house during a dispute over the man's complaints that Knight hunted too near his farm, being put on a zero-tolerance leash by IU's president, quickly running Larry Bird off to Indiana State University (unless Bird thought Terre Haute was a better showcase for his talents), and in an event that would presage vice presidential political drama, hunting without a license and accidentally shooting his friend.  The list goes on and on.  I hate to ruin a good story with the facts, but UMass was not placed on probation after the Marcus Camby incident, as Knight claimed, though they were sanctioned, and the investigation found nothing to indicate that Calipari's actions or involvement "put" those schools on probation.  Memphis was placed on probation, as Knight correctly insinuated, but that probation is under appeal because the NCAA, the organization placing Memphis on probation, is also the organization that investigated Derrick Rose after high school and told Memphis that he was cleared to play, like a cop telling you it's OK to walk across a vacant property and then arresting you for trespassing.  Apparently, Knight thinks the word integrity only applies to NCAA sanctions, of which he has none-- whoop-de-doo, coincidentally the same number of NCAA sanctions (zero) that have been given Calipari, and now Bobby has brought an entire generation  previously unaware of his shenanigans up to speed; I hope that makes him happy.  (Were it me, I would have preferred them to remain forgotten.)  Yes, Your Honor, I admit I shot at that man's house and that I am probably still banned from Puerto Rico, but I didn't want to go back there, anyway, and by the way, I don't have a single NCAA sanction.

The Marcus Camby UMass argument against Calipari's integrity I find particularity perplexing in its total lack of logic, Camby admitting to having accepted about $28,000 from sports agents while he played for the Minutemen under Coach Cal, which made him ineligible to play basketball in the NCAA and resulted in UMass having to vacate victories in which he played, including a Final Four appearance.  Had Calipari or UMass given Camby gifts or cash to play at UMass, that would clearly be cheating but would at least make sense because Calipari would have had something to gain; encouraging or ignoring Camby's acceptance of cash from sports agents could only have had negative implications for Calipari's reputation and success and would gain him no advantage, Camby already being on the team, so why would Calipari condone this behavior if he had everything to lose and nothing to gain?  One would have to believe that Calipari knew Camby was accepting gifts, approved of having his program and reputation put in jeopardy with nothing to gain for either, and then persuaded Camby to come clean with the NCAA.  A simpler explanation is that Camby accepted gifts without Calipari's knowledge, providing a financial gain for himself but jeopardizing UMass basketball, and Calipari counseled him to confess when the coach discovered it, the principle of Ocham's Razor asserting that the explanation with the fewest assumptions is more often correct. The haters argue that Calipari should have known that his player was talking to agents, though our own children, for whom we as parents are also responsible, do lots of things every day of which we are completely unaware, so imagine keeping tabs round the clock on twelve college students who don't live with you; some argue that even if Calipari didn't know, he should be held responsible for his team's transgressions, anyway.  I doubt these same haters would feel that Bobby Knight should have been fired had it been determined that one of his players, completely without his knowledge, accepted gifts or cash (and for all we know some did but were not caught); for chrissake he was arrested for assault and he shot at a man's house; nor does anyone seem to be calling for Roy Williams to be banned from basketball, though he coached Kansas the year it received probation, not just sanctions, then ran out of town ahead of the NCAA to a more lucrative job at UNC, and he, unlike Calipari, was personally sanctioned by the NCAA.  Calipari is also chastised for hiring Tyreke Evan's strength coach at Memphis, a move that seems shady but is apparently completely legal and not uncommon (though I think it should be neither), but the Raleigh News and Observer reported in 2009 that the University of North Carolina hired Tyler Hansbrough's mother while he still played for the Tar Heels, which might appear to be a more direct subsidy to a student-athlete than hiring his former coach.  Williams just seems to be more likable than Cal and that must play a part in whom we consider to have integrity.

Calipari is also castigated for recruiting one-and-doners like Derrick Rose and John Wall, a category of players created by a stupid NBA collective bargaining rule that says high school players can't turn pro until they've been out of high school for a year, even if they're already good enough to play with the pros, a second reason Bobby Knight may be onto something regarding the current system for college basketball players.  The haters sneer at one-and-doners as if they're a lower life form, primarily fans from schools that one-and-doners snub, but also fans of schools like North Carolina and Kansas, in spite of the probability that Xavier Henry at Kansas will be a one-and-doner this year, and Tar Heel fans conveniently forget Brandan Wright, who was one-and-done just two years ago.  I'm not sure why they're held in such disdain, though a frequently stated criticism is that they're not really in school to be students, but are there as a brief stepping stone to the NBA, as if doing that for just one year is somehow much worse than being two-and-done like, say, Michael Jordan, three-and-done like nearly all pro-bound college baseball players, or one of the herd of football players who go to college for three and a half years but never complete their last semester of college because, football season ending in January, they no longer need the eligibility, as if anyone believes that most star athletes at major sports colleges are there for an education and might consider a career in pro sports after they graduate, or perhaps law or neurosurgery.

Some of those football players are playing their final college game in the Music City Bowl shortly, some will graduate while some will not, and I need to go watch it now to rest my brain because all this thinking about thinking has reduced my own stream of consciousness to a mere trickle and besides, I need to check ESPN to see how far down his own stream of consciousness Urban Meyer has drifted in the past twenty minutes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall Back

I love Daylight Savings Time. Give me late July evenings when it’s still light at 9:00 and the air has begun to cool. Darkness at six in the evening in mid-December is beyond depressing.

My father-in-law, a farmer, despises Daylight Savings Time because it meant he had to get up before daylight even in the summer. He claims politicians, city-folk mostly, forced it on us because they like to play golf after work. “Politicians,” I assured him, “would never make laws based solely on such self-serving, mindless reasoning”. Oh. Wait a minute.

In the early seventies, Nixon instituted Daylight Savings Time year round to save energy. A famous political cartoon from that time showed two tiny kids waiting for a school bus in pitch dark and snow up to their necks with the caption, "I'd impeach him for daylight saving alone."

One thing I don’t like about Daylight Savings Time, though, is resetting clocks.

What did I miss? Eight clocks, three clock radios, oven, microwave, timer on the hall lamp, three televisions, four timers on landscape lights, four cars (the kids never change theirs), wireless handset phone base, three digital cameras, a video camera, two programmable thermostats, a VCR (why do we still own a VCR?), a digital voice recorder, several watches. Changed batteries in the smoke detectors.

My grandparents spun the hand on their mantle clock and moved on.

In fairness, some of these are unimportant. In particular, I don’t care if my cameras record the wrong time of day so long as they have the right date. I’m working my way through editing a box full of family home videos, many of which were recorded on analog tapes that don’t record a time code. Now, I’m not sure when many of them were recorded. (“Honey, do you remember when your wore your hair like this? “No, do you remember when you wore those stupid-looking giant glasses?” “You had hair, doesn’t that help you date it?”)

I can’t remember when I ever looked at my wireless handset phone to check the time. If I’m on the phone and need to know the time, there’s usually an easier way to find it than to take the handset away from my ear and look for reading glasses to see the tiny clock on the receiver. An easier way, like yelling, “Honey, what time is it?”

I never check the time on my digital voice recorder. I think the manufacturer added a clock just because they could. Like the MP3 player and photo viewer features on my car’s GPS; what’s that all about? If my car stereo, iPod, cell phone and satellite receiver all fail on the same trip, I suppose I could listen to music on my GPS as a backup. Or, maybe this is what they had in mind. “Yes, officer, I was speeding. But before you write me a ticket, can I show you some pictures of our baby here on my GPS?”

I say these are unimportant and that would be true were it not for my OCD. I mean, really, why do I care if the car my daughter drives has the right time if she doesn’t care and I never drive it? I am certain that at some point in the next few months I will notice the time is incorrect on my digital voice recorder and I will correct it for no other reason than my unexplained compulsion. Might as well do it now. That’s the problem with the microwave and oven clocks, too. They’re so close together I see them at the same time and if they are more than a minute apart, I’ll fix them. When the power goes off in our home, I’m a nervous, constantly-blinking wreck right after it comes back on.

Not all clocks can be ignored with impunity. I remember years ago, a lady with two small children rushing into church with a confused and horrified expression as the rest of the congregation looked up at her during the closing prayer. (Note to architects: there are many good reasons to design the church entrance from the rear of the Nave.)

Forgetting to reset a watch can make you late for all sorts of meetings, of course, or require you to kill an hour in the waiting room, depending on the season. That’s assuming it’s a watch that you wear. I found a few watches that I apparently haven’t worn since last spring, or wore but didn’t notice the time was wrong, and having forgotten to advance them an hour when Daylight Savings Time began, I can now also forget to set them back. Yet another example of two wrongs making a right. Who makes up those sayings, anyway?

Those programmable thermostats are great for saving energy, but miss setting them back in the fall and you risk having to jump out of bed on a November morning an hour before the furnace kicks in. That’s the very definition of rude awakening.

Technology is lightening the load. DVR’s and computers reset their own clocks. Our computers then reset our iPods. I have an outdoor clock, hanging high on the rear wall of our house so we can see it from the pool, that resets itself from a radio signal sent out by the government from a station in Fort Collins, Colorado. It saves me getting out the extension ladder twice a year to reset the time, though I still have to replace the alkaline battery once a year, so I guess it only saves me one climb.

There are so many clocks and timers in our lives nowadays that this entire time changing process can take a while. If you want to annoy the teenagers in your home (and be honest, who among us doesn’t?), then sing while you’re walking around the house resetting everything that ticks or blinks. Sing The Times They Are A-Changin', but do it in Dylan’s stylized voice. They’ll stone you 'cause you tried to make a pun. They’ll stone you when you don't sound like Dyl-un. It’s a sure sign you’re getting to them. Savor it.

Or, do the Chambers Brothers' 1966 hit, Time Has Come Today. “What does that even mean?” they’ll snark. Smirk back at them like they just don’t get it.

Don’t tell them that 43 years and 86 time changes later, you still don’t know what the hell it means, either.



[Fall Back  is currently a featured column at Intrepid Media.]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tweeting Too Soon

If you’re one of the many Internet users who loathe Twitter, maybe you just tweeted too soon. Twitter is, and always has been, a work in progress.

Twitter started out as a social media platform that asked users to answer in 140 characters or less the question, “What are you doing?” The better question is “What were they thinking?”

Did they think we really need a social media platform with thousands of messages saying, “walking the dog now” or “Suzy looks so cute today”? Actually, according to a story in today’s New York Times entitled Twitter Serves Up Ideas From Its Followers, Twitter’s management didn’t really know what to think. Their business model is to provide some functionality and let their users point the direction of the service’s future. That’s either a truly great idea or a truly great after-the-fact rationalization to explain why things have turned out the way they have.

No one can blame users who tried the service early on and were driven away by thousands of inane updates, but Twitter has evolved. I hated it early on, too. I’d rather chew on a piece of aluminum foil while I shave my head with a cheese grater than read one more vacuous tweet. But now, my Twitter application is a well-organized source of information that I actually want and the goofy stuff is nowhere in sight. Here’s how I did it.

First, I recognized that the value of Twitter is following the right people and filtering out the rest. SteveCase, my old boss at AOL, tweets better than anyone else I know. He constantly covers a wide range of interesting topics, from global warming to the Washington Redskins. His tweets contain a brief topic description, and here’s the important part, a hyperlink to the real story. I rarely find interesting tweets that don’t include a hyperlink. Here’s one from today:

         SteveCase As Redskins fumble, some fans are saying, 'See ya' (WPost) http://bit.ly/4jIVS6

This isn’t a “What Are You Doing?” update, it’s a link to an interesting story that I wanted to read. Johnclayiv, a sports reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, provides inside information on University of Kentucky sports that I probably would miss here in North Carolina. DiamondHeels alerted me to a UNC baseball game that had been canceled minutes before I was planning to leave for the ballpark. When Kentucky games or UNC baseball games aren’t on TV or radio, those two post scores on Twitter. I’m working with an amazing Career Coach, LauraLabovich, to help a friend find a job. She posts links to great job search articles on Twitter.

Businesses are using Twitter in interesting ways, too. The other day, I sent a tweet to TwelpForce, which is apparently monitored by Best Buy sales people who aren’t helping a real customer at the moment. I asked who makes a printer with an envelope feeder and who makes subcompact cameras with an optical viewfinder. I got answers in minutes (Epson and Olympus). If you have trouble getting someone to help you in the store, try walking over to their computer section and tweeting them.

When you follow great sources, they will frequently recommend other sources you might want to follow. It is customary to do so on what Twitter calls “Follow Friday”, but it happens all the time, so it’s easy to build up a quality list of resources for whatever topic interests you.

The next step is to get rid of the tweets you don’t want. You choose whose tweets you want to see by following them, but you may sometimes come to regret your decision. “Unfollow” people who don’t send interesting information your way. Clicking on their name at the beginning of their Tweet links you to their Twitter profile page where you can click on the gear icon and select the unfollow option. Poof! Their stupid tweets will never again sully your desktop. It's a gratifying experience.

Speaking of desktops, there are many Twitter applications to choose from. You don’t need an application at all, you can use the Twitter.com website, but the applications make the service easier to use and they’re a lot more fun. I like Seesmic, but TweetDeck is probably the most popular. Both make it easier to organize the information you receive, simplify functions like Re-Tweeting (RT) and accessing multiple accounts, like one for the office, maybe and one for home, and both are free downloads.

I set up Seesmic to show several different columns of information called User Lists. The first User List shows tweets from everyone I follow. In the second list, I display only tweets from Kentucky sports people I follow and I have another for my close friends and family. If I’m interested in sports, I only look at the second list.

I get lots of women followers who have their profile pictures taken in provocative attire. I assume they have strong intellectual interest in the financial information I post, or maybe they’re trying to tempt me to follow them. I don’t. I used to block them when I received their request, so they can't see what I post, but I’m not really sure they’re worth the effort. I don’t follow them, but I figure it’s OK if maybe they learn something about convertible debentures from me occasionally.

There are lots of other features you might find interesting, like sending direct messages to another Twitter user (a.k.a., “Twit”), searching tweets, posting pictures and retweeting, but you can pick those up as you go along. Recently, I signed up for SMS service by going to my profile page and selecting SETTINGS>DEVICES. Register your cell phone number and you can post tweets by sending a text message from your cell phone to 40404. I’m still trying to figure out why I would want to do that, but maybe I’ll be sitting at a baseball game one day and think, “My god, I have to post this right now.”

I think Twitter earned itself a bad rap early on. Taking these steps has turned Twitter into a useful tool for me. People I respect connect me with information that I might otherwise miss. It’s all organized by my desktop application. I winnowed out the bonehead tweeters and gradually built a list of excellent resources to follow.

If you haven’t tried Twitter since the “boy, do I hate rainy Mondays” era, you might want to give it another try. If you still don’t like it, see what it's like in about six months.

It’s a work in progress.




Follow me on Twitter.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ten Reasons to Ignore Lists

List articles are gimmicks. They’re literary candy that catches our eye but ultimately leaves us unnourished.

I received a link on Twitter the other day to an article that listed the Twelve Most Annoying Types of FaceBookers. I have also recently received links to Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted on Twitter (as if you could get ReTweeted somewhere other than Twitter), 10 Best Things We’ll Say to Our Grandkids (funny, actually) and Ten Reasons Not to Eat Ping-Pong Balls. Google “ten reasons” and you will be amazed.

I confess that I made up the ping-pong thing, although my friend, Terry Templeton, wrote an essay for English class in 1969 entitled “The Disadvantages of Eating Ping-Pong Balls”, long before the Internet came along. Terry was way ahead of his time.

There was nothing unusual about the FaceBooker article, itself. It was the endless stream of list articles in magazines at the grocery checkout stand (Ten Secrets to Great Skin) and on the Web that made me yell, “enough!” at my startled iMac. The article was somewhat unique in listing twelve items instead of ten, which brings me to item number one on my list of reasons to ignore lists.

1. Ten is nearly always an arbitrarily selected number. Ten makes a catchy title. It sounds good because it is a round number that matches our number of toes or fingers, but there are seldom ten true list items. In all likelihood, there are either more and the writer omits some to reach ten, or there are fewer and the writer fabricates a couple to pad the difference. Either way, the reader gets shortchanged. Twelve is perhaps a little less artificial than ten but, on the other hand, it is an even dozen. When I see someone write about seven items one day, or maybe thirteen, I'll know the writer was at least selective about what made the list.

2. Lists are a cop-out for blocked writers with a deadline. With a deadline looming and no creative ideas for a topic, lists are an easy way out. Can’t think of a topic? How about The Ten Worst Things to Put in an Email Signature File, or The Ten Dumbest Things I Read on FaceBook This Week? Don’t we readers deserve topics that are thoughtful and entertaining but might not fit into a bullet list?

3. Lists tend to provide little support for their assertions. Lists don’t offer much opportunity to establish connections, provide background or reasoning, or to supply supporting evidence for their observations.

When we establish that two events tend to happen simultaneously, we need to determine causality before conferring one of the events with predictive qualities. I may note that the stock market tends to do well when the NFC wins the Super Bowl, for instance, but I know that the latter does not cause the former. A list article entitled Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted on Twitter observes that Tweets that use TinyURL.com to shorten long hyperlinks are far less likely to be ReTweeted than those that use bit.ly. Can we, therefore, increase the probability that our Tweet will be ReTweeted by using bit.ly? Not likely.

There are probably just more applications that use bit.ly than TinyURL. Common sense suggests there is likely no causal link between selection of an URL-shortener and the likelihood of being ReTweeted. The writer doesn’t bother with such analysis, but hey, it makes an interesting list that happens to be precisely a dozen items long.

4. List-writers assume an authority that they haven’t earned. On what authority do I write an article listing the ten most annoying Tweets or FaceBook posts? These are not written on the basis of surveys or studies or a well constructed argument, but personal observations and reactions. The article should rightfully be entitled The Ten FaceBook Posts that Annoy Me, Personally, the Most. Of course, you wouldn’t read an article with that title, because you don’t care that much about my personal likes and dislikes. But, if I can insinuate that these are the things that annoy everyone, you just might.

5. Lists lack organization that provides insight. As my son, the English major, puts it, paragraphs have a responsibility to one another, but list items only answer to an arbitrary category. List articles don't explore relationships, causes or even inconsistencies.

6. They don’t help. No one stops bragging on their children, forwarding chain letter emails, providing mundane updates (“I’m having breakfast now”), promoting their blog, or acknowledging the death of famous people they care about because someone publishes those items on a list. No one.

Furthermore, these are things that people I know and love do in person every day and I don’t hand them a list telling them what they could do to annoy me less. It’s what makes us different and interesting. If a friend Tweets that he is listening to Nick Drake, it may seem mundane to you, but it tells me that we have something in common and I’m happy to learn it. Dude, not every Tweet is about you.

7. It just encourages them. If writers believe you will read a list article any time they can’t think of a truly interesting topic, they’ll do it again. And next time, instead of reading Ten Bad Topics to Post on FaceBook, you’ll end up reading a list of reasons not to read lists.

I don’t really have any items eight through ten. I lied in the title to catch your eye, though I respect you too much to brazenly make up three more reasons. I suppose I just couldn’t think of anything else to write about. I began writing an article entitled The Ten Most Important Things I Have Forgotten, but as you can imagine, it didn’t go well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sinkhole

Until yesterday, there was a sinkhole in my backyard. It formed over the winter when most of my swimming pool gradually leaked through a faulty valve, unnoticed under the pool cover, and washed away some of my real estate. It started out small, and as holes tend to do, it grew and grew. Eventually it reached a depth of about six feet and a diameter of nearly twelve.

I hired Gene to find out why the sinkhole developed. Gene is a good ole' boy in the very best sense of the phrase. His body is sculpted by hard physical labor, too much fried chicken, and way too many beers, and he knows how to solve structural landscape problems.

Gene and his crew dug down twelve feet, quadrupling the size of the hole in the process, to find that a drain pipe had immediately crushed twenty years ago when it was installed. The resulting gap between the crushed pipe and the intact section created an outlet for the soil to leak away. It wasn't a problem for nineteen years until the swimming pool valve failed and water trickled from above the broken pipe all winter.

After digging the hole and exposing the problem, Gene disappeared for about six months, leaving an even deeper hole as the erosion continued, and a large pile of dirt next to it. Through the spring months, rains washed away the pile until there wasn't nearly enough dirt to refill the hole.

In late spring, I began to look for someone to fill in the hole. A friend referred me to Tom, who does large scale work on roads, city parks and the like. Tom took a long look at the sinkhole, which is at the bottom of a very steep, wooded hill and shook his head. "I could fill this hole in twenty minutes", he told me, "if I could get my equipment down here, but I can't. I'd have to tear up your entire backyard in the process and leave you with a bigger mess than you have now."

Tom offered to deliver six yards of fill dirt to the top of the hill and suggested that I hire some cheap manual labor to move the dirt down the hill with a wheelbarrow. He figured it would take four men two or three days. "Then, again", he offered, "if a load gets away from you, the wheelbarrow and the worker are both gonna end up in that lily pond at the bottom of the hill."

Next, I called Rubin. Rubin has done a lot of yard work for me with a small tractor that has a front-end loader and a shovel. He dug up a hedge I wanted removed with that small tractor once and hauled it away in less than an hour. Unfortunately, Rubin couldn't see a way to get his tractor down that steep, wooded hill, either.

While all this head scratching was going on, I had a large birch tree cut down and hauled away by a company that used a small bulldozer called a Bobcat. It made the process amazingly fast and easy, so I asked the Bobcat operator what he thought about filling the sinkhole. "A Bobcat would do it, alright", he told me with great authority, "but ours has wheels. You'd need one with tracks. And it will tear up your hillside."

In the meanwhile, Gene, whom I hadn't heard from since early spring, finally returned my call and came by once more to look at the sinkhole that he, himself, had enlarged. "Here's what we can do", he told me. "I have a huge vinyl tarp. We can load dirt on it at the top of the hill and have two or three fellas pull it down the hill and dump it into the hole."

Ingenious, I thought. It's a steep hill covered with grass. A tarp should slide right down it. I was somewhat reluctant to give Gene the job, though, because it would mean validating one of the oldest business models around-- get someone to pay you to dig a deep hole somewhere very inconvenient and then go away and wait for them to pay you to fill it back in. In the end, I gave him the job because his solution was so creative and because no one else had a clue how to solve the problem.

By the time work had started, the crew had either forgotten about the tarp idea, or perhaps tried it and found it didn't work, after all. In any case, they began loading an old wheelbarrow. If you've never tried to push a heavily-loaded wheelbarrow on a steep surface, you might not appreciate the challenge.

The wheelbarrow is balanced on a single front wheel and if it tips just a little too far to either side, the load gets dumped on the ground and you have to reload it. Even if you keep lateral balance, pushing the thing down a steep hill means slowing its descent so it doesn't get away from you and then stopping its inertia at the bottom of the hill. This job required both. The wheelbarrow had to be balanced on its front wheel while slowing it's downhill descent and eventually stopping at the sinkhole, load after load after load.

Now, men like to watch other men work on construction jobs, whether it's filling a hole, cutting down a tree or building a skyscraper. We enjoy watching these activities when we're five and we still enjoy watching when we're 65, which is one of the examples women use to argue that, deep down, men are always little boys. I don't disagree with them.

I remember sitting in my father-in-law's backyard with a few other grown men watching a guy on a tractor mow a steep hill with a bush hog. The hill was so steep, he had to stand up on the tractor because if he had sat on the seat, he would have fallen off. We watched for an hour, wondering if he would fall off the tractor or the tractor would roll over on its side. He finished the job without incident and I couldn't tell if the others were impressed with his skill and nerve, or disappointed because the tractor didn't tip over. Given this inherent male compulsion, I occasionally looked out the back window to watch the hole-filling process in my backyard.

I watched the workers bring down the first wheelbarrow-full of dirt. The top two-thirds of the hill was blocked from my view by trees, but I saw them emerge from beneath the foliage near the bottom. One worker steered and tried to "put on the brakes" while the other walked alongside and tried to keep it from tipping. It was a slow, laborious process and I couldn't imagine how they would deliver a hundred or so loads of dirt this way in my lifetime. The tarp idea seemed a lot more attractive and I wondered again why it had been abandoned.

I went inside for a while, but after about an hour my inner five-year old took control and I needed to check on progress. I walked out onto the deck where I could hear the workers speaking Spanish at the top of the hill, though I couldn't see them for the trees. Suddenly, I heard what sounded like a deer running down the hill beneath the foliage and I was reminded of ski slopes from my younger day.

Faced with a steep run, adults will slalom down the hill from side to side, sloughing off speed by digging their edges into the snow and turning back and forth across the face of the slope. Eight year old's, on the other hand, will point their ski tips toward the bottom of the slope and fly straight down that hill at top speed. When they reach the bottom, they kill time waiting for their parents to finally make it down. I used to think this was because they were only three and a half feet tall and didn't have far to fall, but it is more likely a result of their lack of appreciation for imminent death. I suppose the theory, if there is any thought given to this strategy at all, is that, as with bicycle riding, speed brings stability.

The frightened deer beneath the foliage began to sound more like a black bear crashing down the hill, though I considered that an unlikely event within the city limits of Chapel Hill, and suddenly a white streak emerging from beneath the foliage into the clearing at the bottom of the hill caught my eye. A young worker in his mid-twenties had removed his T-shirt and tied it around his head and it flew behind him like a flag on a windy day. He ran at top speed downhill behind the wheelbarrow, with huge strides, making no effort to slow its descent, in fact just trying to keep up with it, and aiming it a little right of the lily pond and straight for the sinkhole, just like those kids on the ski slope.

I was startled, but if I had time to think I would have asked myself how he intended to stop this runaway train before both he and it fell into the six-foot deep sinkhole yawning just three strides ahead of him. My question was answered in a heartbeat.

One more stride and he lifted the handles high into the air and let go. The wheelbarrow flipped ass-over-teakettle and the load of dirt flew through the air and right into the hole. While I tried to process what I had seen in those three seconds, a YouTube moment spoiled by my refusal to keep a video camera permanently in hand, he calmly walked over to the wheelbarrow, picked it up and began slowly walking up the hill for another load.

Three days to manually fill in that sinkhole? Heck, they were nearly done by noon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dammit

Is "bee"-ing outside the best part of summer?

I went to a baseball game and got sunburned. I have a fair complexion, but I was prepared, or so I thought. I covered myself in Coppertone Sports waterproof SPF 45 and sat in the sun for three hours. I even wore a cap so I wouldn't sunburn my head.

I don't know how I wore the sunscreen off my knees. There wasn't enough legroom to cross my legs, so I didn't rub it off that way. Maybe I rested my elbows on my knees and leaned forward, but that sounds pretty uncomfortable and I think I'd remember doing that. Frankly, I have no idea how my knees got sunburned with SPF 45 on them, but they did, two large, beet-red circles on my otherwise white legs.

I went to another baseball game with my son the next day and once again doused myself in SPF 45, and this time I paid extra attention to my knees. They may have been protected from more burn, but they stung like hell when the early afternoon sun hit them. Necessity being the mother of invention, I reached into my stadium seat's largest pocket and pulled out two sheets of typing paper. I probably should have checked to see if they contained information I might need again some day, like Mapquest directions home from the ballpark, but all I could think about was how much my knees hurt.

I took each sheet of paper, laid it lengthwise atop each leg and rolled it around the top of the leg, protruding out over the knee like a little porch, then slid it under the legs of my shorts a couple of inches to hold it in place. It worked like a charm so long as I didn't stand up. Instantly, my knees stopped stinging.

I noticed my son was staring at me.

"What?" I asked.

"Dad, you look like a dork."

"I don't care", I told him. "My knees don't hurt, anymore."

He shook his head and leaned away from me, trying to look like he had come to the game with the guy sitting on his other side.

I went fly fishing with my son a few days later and, having learned my lesson, I put on loads of SPF 45. I reapplied several times during the day, being careful to cover both knees. I didn't get sunburned. I did, however, get mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes bit my left forearm in nine places. Nine! I also got one bite on the back of my neck, but it was the exception. None of my other exposed appendages were bitten. I have no idea why the mosquitoes only bit my left forearm; you'd have to ask them. I suspect that someone just hadn't read the attack plan. You know, you can ask ten guys to meet you at Burger King and there will be one guy every time who calls you from Hardee's and wants to know why everyone else is late.

I was awakened very early the next morning by my arm itching so badly that I threw it straight up into the air and fiercely rubbed it with my other hand. Unfortunately, when I threw my arm into the air, I knocked the lampshade off the lamp on my bedside table and woke up my wife.

Purely by chance, I had my annual appointment with the dermatologist the following day and she winced when she saw my bites. She suggested cortisone and gave me two small sample tubes of prescription strength cortisone cream. I applied the ointment to the bites just twice and the itching went away entirely. The bites are brown now, who knows why, but at least they don't itch.

Today, I needed to work in the yard, though the temperature was in the nineties. I doused myself with SPF 45 and waited for it to dry. When it did, I sprayed myself all over with DeepWoods Off, you know, 40% DEET. I wore a cap to protect my scalp and put on sunglasses, just in case. I even sprayed the cap with Off.

I had been working outside for maybe five minutes when a bee stung my left calf.

So, yeah. It's summer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mint Juleps

Since retiring, I've tried to organize my life around projects. Sometimes they're writing projects, maybe a self-improvement effort or an undertaking to improve my sporting clays shooting. I made a New Years resolution this year to raise my fly-casting skills to the next level. This spring I even upgraded the wiring and plumbing on my swimming pool. Recently, however, I hit on a great idea for my next project, given that I grew up right smack dab in the middle of the bourbon distilling region of Kentucky. I'm experimenting to find the best recipe for mint juleps.

I tried a mint julep decades ago, one of those Kentucky Derby specials that taste like a mixture of creme de menthe, Karo syrup and Very Old Barton, and swore never again to taste such a vile concoction. Years later, at a business dinner in Atlanta at Pittypat's Porch, I noticed that mint juleps were a house specialty. I ordered one and discovered that it wasn't mint juleps I hated, but bad mint juleps.

You might assume this project is self-serving, decadent or simply unimportant (my wife thought it all three), but it actually poses a number of intellectual challenges that I believe I have cleverly resolved. It is an optimization problem, actually, that requires determining the maximum rate at which the tester can drink mint juleps without becoming sick of mint juleps (or just plain sick), without losing the ability to read and execute a recipe, and yet not extending the process so long that the tester simply loses interest before completing the project.

It should go without saying that one should not overlap a project like this one, in an attempt to maximize productivity, with projects such as the aforementioned upgrades to swimming pool wiring and plumbing, or improving one's shotgun skills.

I completed an experimentation session earlier, which explains why the last paragraph took over a half hour to write. . . I need to lie down now.

OK, I'm back. (Where did the afternoon go?)

The first challenge is how to run many tests of a drink that you wouldn't want to have every day. Mint juleps have a very strong bourbon flavor and they're sweet. That makes them ideal for a dessert substitute after a meal of say, pork barbecue or grilled filet mignon coated with peppery Montreal Grill Seasoning, or in lieu of a midafternoon lemonade on the porch, but one is typically plenty. I considered mixing half recipes, but some recipes are difficult to split and might call into question the validity of the test results.

It occurred to me to mix the drink but only taste it and throw the rest away. That turned out to require more willpower than I apparently possess. I finally decided to mix two different full recipe drinks at a time, one for my wife and one for me, and to taste hers. She is not a mint julep fan though, so I usually end up finishing hers off after mine. Waste not, want not.

The next challenge is the cost of purchasing several brands of bourbon. This I easily resolved by buying those little airline bottles. Fortunately, the local ABC store stocks a wide variety of small bottles of bourbon. I know this because when I go to a Tar Heel football game, bourbon's distinct bouquet wafts through the stands just as strongly as it it did when I was growing up near Bardstown, Kentucky and because the bathrooms are littered with tiny, empty Ancient Age and Maker's Mark bottles. I guess fans need the privacy because drinking at the stadium is prohibited, but it does seem like they could find a more appropriate location to mix a drink than a men's room stall. (The ACC bans the sale of alcohol at conference events, unlike the SEC, where drinking at a football game is a requirement for admission.)

I found through extensive experimentation that a good mint julep requires good bourbon, but not necessarily sipping-grade bourbon. I learned that for sipping, Rob Creek really knocks. I'm sorry, I meant to say, "Knob Creek really rocks". This nine-year-old bourbon is distilled just a few miles from the high school I attended. It didn't significantly improve the taste of my mint juleps, though, because the sugar and mint mask the subtleties of the bourbon's taste.

Fresh mint is readily available in grocery store produce departments, but my wife grows it in an herb garden on the deck so I just pick a handful. If you decide to grow your own, plant it in a pot rather than a flowerbed, because the stuff spreads like kudzu.

Mint julep recipes range from simple to extremely complex. Food Network suggests a recipe for the perfect mint julep that serves ten to twelve and requires no less than twenty-four hours and thirty minutes to cook. Yeah, cook. I don't want a mint julep that badly. Ever.

Many of the recipes differ on the simple syrup component. The more complex approach is to boil equal parts water and sugar until the sugar completely dissolves, then cool the mixture until it becomes a syrup. A much simpler approach with no pot to wash is mixing a tablespoon of superfine sugar with two tablespoons of hot water. Garden & Gun magazine printed a nice recipe using superfine sugar. (By the way, if you have any interest at all in the lifestyle of the South, this evocatively named magazine is a must.) I have found that stirring the hot water and superfine sugar until the mixture is clear provides a result that is nearly indistinguishable from the simple syrup recipes and has the added benefit of using only half the sugar. I like the slightly less sweet taste.

Some recipes differ from the classic enough to offend traditionalists. Bobby Flay, for example, suggests adding six or eight muddled blackberries to allow the tangy fruit to complement the sweetness of the simple syrup. Blackberries have been my favorite fruit since I first tried my grandma's blackberry cobbler, so I appreciate this addition. I found it to be a nice change of pace that I would consider under the right circumstances, such as having recently tasted dozens of mint juleps without blackberries.

Ultimately, I decided that the best mint julep is a traditional recipe with superfine sugar, though using simple syrup provides a comparable, but slightly sweeter drink. I suggest a good bourbon, but not sipping-grade unless you just happen to have some on hand. If you were born in the South, don't use the Woodford Reserve you keep in the study for Christmas and Derby Day, use the Ancient Age you keep in the hurricane emergency supply kit, you know, next to the bottled water and the flashlight batteries:


A Near-Perfect Mint Julep

2 oz. (4 Tbsp) good bourbon (great bourbon acceptable, but unnecessary)
1 oz. (2 Tbsp) hot water
2 oz. (1 Tbsp) superfine sugar
8 mint leaves and one mint sprig for garnish
crushed ice (absolutely necessary)
a straw

Put the hot water into an old-fashioned or mint julep glass and add the sugar. Stir until the mixture is clear. Add the mint leaves and bruise them with a muddler or wooden spoon to extract the oil from the leaves. Do this somewhat gently; dont try to beat the oil out of them. Add the bourbon, fill the glass with crushed ice slightly mounded over the top of the glass and insert the mint sprig garnish. Insert a straw and cut it off about two inches above the glass so you smell the mint sprig when you sip. Stir the drink slightly with the straw.

The crushed ice is a key component. If you mix this drink and immediately take a sip, you're going to get a shot of nearly straight bourbon that will knock your socks off, which is fine if you actually want your socks knocked off. If you're happy with your socks, it's best to wait a couple of minutes until a little crushed ice melts and makes a kinder, gentler drink.

Of course, if you wait too long on a hot day, all that crushed ice will melt and soon water down the drink, but this drink is so good you're going to finish it long before that happens.

I prefer this recipe because the additional preparation time of more complex recipes doesn't add that much to the taste. It's an excellent compromise between expediency and taste. This is not a drink that you'll crave often, but when you do, it really hits the spot.

Personally, though, I don't think I'll need another for quite a while.

I need to lie down now.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"G"

When I began attending UNC baseball games in 2006, Garrett Gore was a freshman with a good glove at second, no offense, and no nickname. Pitchers Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller would soon play in the major leagues, Chad Flack would become Mr. Clutch and a host of other players on the team seemed destined for the big leagues. Carolina would make its first of four straight appearances in the College World Series in Omaha, with Garrett as a role player.


Photo by Joe Bray

Garrett
took over the starting second base role at the end of his freshman year and ended the season batting .227 and committing four errors. He finished that year at the College World Series in Omaha, one game short of a national championship. I thought Garrett would be an outstanding second baseman, but I didn't expect a lot from his bat.



Garrett owned second base his sophomore year. Paired with shortstop Josh Horton, the Tar Heel's middle infield was formidable. Much to my surprise, he also increased his batting average nearly 100 points to .324 and won an award for being the Tar Heel's Most Improved Player. He committed only six errors and made a second trip to Omaha, again falling just short of the championship, but he was becoming a recognized key to the Tar Heel's success. In his spare time, a scarce commodity for college athletes, he made the Dean's List.


At the end of his junior year's regular season, the wheels came off. With the departure of Josh Horton to the majors, Coach Fox moved Garrett to shortstop, a very different position than second base. He came into the last few series of the season with a handful of errors, but his throws to first base began to sail on him and frequently ended up in the visitor's dugout. He would commit a whopping 21 errors before being demoted to designated hitter. Leaving the field after yet another throwing error, I watched Coach Fox meet him at the third baseline and gently tap his fingers on Garrett's temple. "It's all right up here now."


As Garrett's troubles at shortstop grew, I found myself becoming a bigger fan. Ryan Graepel took over his shortstop position and Garrett was relegated to just a hitting role, but I noticed that every time we really needed a hit from him, he delivered. I cheered for his every plate appearance. My friends gave me puzzled looks, but that made me support him even more. "Shortstop isn't his natural position", I'd tell them. "The team just needed him to replace Horton. Don't give up on him." Garrett made his third trip to Omaha as the DH.


Opening day of the 2009 season was also the debut of the renovated Boshamer Stadium. We had a sellout crowd and my group of friends, about a dozen retirees and spouses, had bought season tickets together. We're perhaps an unlikely bunch, retirees ranging in age from mid-fifties to nearing eighty, a few diehard Yankee fans sitting next to a few died-in-the-wool Red Sox fans. I, myself am a Kentucky Wildcat fan to the core, who loves college baseball and happened to retire in the town where the Tar Heels play their home games. Some of us went to UNC, but others are alumni of UNC Charlotte, Boston College and other fine schools. Somehow, we come together every spring to share a common love-- college baseball-- and to support a team many of us "adopted".


We huddled under blankets on a cold but sunny February 20th and were surprised to find that Garrett Gore had moved to right field. Suddenly, the arm that had overthrown first base so often was throwing 330-foot strikes from right field. He threw out base runners at the plate, until they learned not to try to score on him. He picked up singles in right field and gunned down runners at first who made the turn to second a little too aggressively. He ran down everything catchable. Then he caught the uncatchable.


Photo by Joe Bray


The first weekend in March, during a tight ACC series with Clemson, the Tiger's batter smashed a pitch over the right field wall with a runner on first. Garrett ran and leaped above the fence for the ball, crashing into the padded wall, and fell to the ground. The batter began his home run strut to first. Clemson fans cheered, Tar Heel fans were silent, and the Tiger's other base runner was nearly to third when Garrett jumped up off the ground, pulled the ball out of his glove and threw to first base to double off the runner. What had appeared to be a two-run homer became a double play. Adam Warren, who would later be picked up in the 4th round of the draft by the New York Yankees said in his NCAA blog, "Garrett Gore's robbing catch on Saturday was most likely the best play I have seen in my baseball career."


Garrett had also caught a nickname, "G", the ultimate sign of respect. We yelled it when he came to the plate and we watched with great anticipation when a ball was hit to right field because we knew we might see something spectacular.


His batting improved, too. Going into the 2009 College World Series, he was hitting .307 on the year and had committed just three errors. In the NCAA Regional series, Kansas' coach decided to change pitchers when Garrett came to bat with the bases loaded. With only three homers through the season, Garrett drove the reliever's first pitch, a fast ball, over the wall in dead center field for the first grand slam of his career at any level. His next plate appearance, facing the same reliever, Garrett slammed a first pitch fastball over the wall in left center. A Jayhawk fan sitting behind me deadpanned, "I don't believe I'd throw him another fastball."


The following weekend in the NCAA Super Regional series against East Carolina, Garrett crushed yet another homer to dead center, hitting the wall high above the 405-feet mark.


If the big leagues drafted "heart", Garrett Gore would go in the first round. He wasn't drafted and I'm sure he didn't expect to be, though seven Tar Heels were. (My Wildcats had four players drafted by the MLB in 2009 themselves, thank you.) Fittingly, with all the major league talent the Tar Heels have fielded for the past four years, Garrett Gore, who wears number 4 on his jersey, is one of only four Tar Heels who have been to Omaha four times. His twenty-first College World Series appearance against Arizona State in his last college game gave Garrett the CWS record for most games played. He has been a major contributor to UNC's baseball success since he arrived on campus. He's a good student and a great kid with an infectious smile. A sports photographer commented in the caption of a photo of one of Garrett's heroics that he was one of the finest young men that the photographer had ever met, and he meets a lot of them.


I met Garrett and his parents at the Boshamer Stadium dedication. I told him I was his biggest fan and that my friend's had even jokingly asked if I had adopted him. He smiled and said, "I didn't know I had any fans after last year. These are my parents. They're probably ready to get rid of me." Hardly. Every parent's dream is to raise a kid who can hit a rough patch in the road and come back stronger than ever.


Garrett went to college to get an education and not just as a stop along the way to professional baseball. He didn't play to get a scholarship, either. Most college baseball players get a small fraction of a scholarship, at best. He played for a national championship and realized every ounce of his potential along the way.




December 2009


Post  (from the internet is always right: intrepid media 2009)


Sometimes, I pour my heart into a piece and work on it for months or even years. These are the pieces that I love and want people to read. Sometimes, a piece spills out onto the page in half an hour and it turns out to be one that people want to read. “G” is a bit of both. It flowed easily onto the page and it was heartfelt. I have written pieces that I love more, but I am usually writing about events that have impacted my life. This time, writing something was the event that impacted my life.


“G” is about a college athlete I hardly knew at the time. I wrote it in less than an hour one evening after watching a kid who had struggled mightily the year before hit two home runs off consecutive pitches in a playoff game, one of them a grand slam.


I say, ”hardly knew at the time”, because Garrett Gore and I have become friends since the column. He emailed me after reading it, we met to talk, and soon Sunday afternoons became the time we meet at Fosters Market to chat about baseball over an iced tea. We also chat about his career plans, to become a color commentator for sports broadcasts, and his final semester of college. I'm helping him with the job search and a paper he's writing on social networking. I have a son Garrett's age and two children a few years younger and it's striking how much easier it is to mentor someone else's son.


Garrett wrote me that what struck him about my column was how I seemed to have seen from a bleacher seat exactly what was going on in his career. He complained that he usually reads columns by sportswriters with direct access to the players and wonders if they have ever gone to a baseball game. I suspect that's because I was writing about what was going on in his life and not about his batting stance or his on-base percentage.


Garrett confided that after his last college baseball game, having been eliminated from his fourth College World Series by Arizona State, he felt a strange sense of relief. The pressure was off for the first time in a long while. He was packing his suitcase in his hotel room after that game when a sports announcer stopped by to suggest he read the column I had written. He walked into his parents' room to find his mother reading the column and crying, a revelation that I absorbed with mixed emotions. Making his mother cry was the last thing I intended. Garrett says he told her to stop crying or he would start.


“G” isn't about baseball, though Garrett's amazing talent and tenacity certainly provided a great backdrop. It's about an overachieving, personable kid from Wilmington, NC with great parents and a great work ethic who hit a rough patch in the road and grew because of it. Writing his resume has been a snap.

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Dirk Cotton is a retired executive of a Fortune 500 technology company. Since retiring in 2005, he has researched and published papers on retirement finance, spoken at retirement industry conferences and events, and regularly posted on retirement finance issues at his blog, The Retirement Cafe. He is currently a Thought Leader at APViewpoint, Advisor Perspectives' online community of  investment advisors and financial planners. He provides retirement planning advice as a fee-only financial planner.

Mr. Cotton holds an undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky, an MBA from Marymount University, and a certificate in financial planning from Boston University.

He and his family currently reside in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He loves to spend time with his family, fly fish, shoot sporting clays, attend college baseball games, sail, follow the Wildcats, and write.

Dirk holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky, an MBA from Marymount University, and a certificate in financial planning from Boston University.  He attended high school in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

email: JDCPlanning@gmail.com