Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hole in one!

Hole in one on #7 at Chipeta Golf Course on June 23, 2012
Yesterday was not an ideal day for golf. The afternoon temperature reached a withering 104 degrees. Few golfers were out on Chipeta Golf Course, but Nan and I were out there with our friends Kevin and Lesley, playing a 4-person scramble in the intense heat. The plan had been to play 18 holes and then go out for sushi, so the afternoon tee time had seemed like a good idea at the time. At least the best-ball scramble format and the gas-powered carts kept us moving quickly around the course.

We were playing pretty well up through the sixth hole, with a combined score of 1 under par to that point. I was the first to tee off on the seventh hole, a 174-yard par three with a pond right off the front of the tee. I have lost a few balls in that pond during past rounds, so I was playing a shag ball, a scuffed-up Titleist, but I pretty much play shag balls all the time since I lose so many. I had it teed down low and was playing a 4 iron. I took a well-balanced swing and made good contact. As I watched, the ball took a high trajectory with a slight draw that put it right on line for the hole. It bounced twice on the green and disappeared. I turned to Nan, Kevin and Lesley, sitting in the shade in the carts, and said, "I think it went in!" They had not been paying close attention and thought I was kidding, but they saw I was serious and hurried to take their tee shots so we could go see for sure.

I raced our cart down the path to the green, hopped out and rushed to the hole. Sure enough, there was my ball. A hole in one! I raised my arms in triumph and received high fives all around. We took some photos for posterity with my iPhone and then moved on to the eighth tee, now 3 under par. As Nan and I drove up the eighth fairway, she nudged me and said, "You're still smiling." I said, "I can't help it. I've been playing golf for 50 years and never thought I would get a hole in one. It feels pretty good."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Transit of Venus

Projected image of the transit of Venus on June 5, 2012, at 7:06 PM MDT
Like many like-minded folks, Nan and I figured out a way to view the transit of Venus last Tuesday. We knew from our experience with the annular eclipse last month that binoculars would work to safely project the sun's image. The problem, when we tried them for the eclipse, was to hold them steady enough. The little dot that would be the projected image of Venus would be really hard to see while holding the binoculars with one shaking hand and a sheet of white paper with the other shaking hand. And it would take a third shaking hand to adjust the focus.

I came up with the simplest solution I could think of: I rubber-banded the binoculars to my camera tripod. This left my hands free to adjust position and focus, and to get the best possible projected image. It wasn't much to look at, as you can see in the photo (click for a full-size view), taken at 7:06 PM MDT, about three hours into the seven-hour transit. But it was our last chance to see a transit of Venus in our lifetimes, so it was worth it.

Growing up in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, my friend Gene Hanson and I would spend summer evenings looking at the night sky through his Tasco 4.5-inch reflector telescope. Thanks to Gene, I have seen all of the planets, except for the recently demoted Pluto. If you know about astronomy, you know that this is not an easy achievement. Timing is everything. On the cold, clear morning of November 10, 1973, Gene and I woke up before dawn to lug his telescope down to Hoyt Park, where we would have a good view of the sun rising through a gap in the trees above the east-west oriented parkway. As the sun rose, we projected its image onto a small screen attached to the telescope, and there we saw a tiny spot, the elusive planet Mercury, near the end of its transit. For two geeky fifteen-year-olds, it was quite a thrill.

Gene has maintained his keen interest in astronomy through the years, getting bigger and bigger telescopes, and even arranging his life so he could live where the viewing is excellent north of Phoenix. His work with variable stars was recognized in 2002 when he was awarded the Leslie C. Peltier Award by the Astronomical League. For amateur astronomers, this is equivalent to being inducted into the hall of fame. Way to go, Gene!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nan's Good Deed: A Happy Ending

There was an article in the Grand Junction Free Press on Friday, May 25, about the local police department's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). According to the article, team members are building relationships with the homeless population to ensure that they receive the services that are available through local providers such as Catholic Outreach and the Salvation Army. Nan brought the article to my attention because the accompanying photo featured HOT team members sitting in the riverside camp of her adopted homeless person, Jerry. The photo must have been more than a year old because we have not seen Jerry around town in at least that long.

After the three-part series I wrote three years ago about Nan's relationship with Jerry ("Nan's good deed", "Nan's good deed, part 2" and "Nan's good deed, part 3"), I have been hesitant to write more because I didn't want to report that things were not going well in Jerry's life. First, we heard through an attorney who helped with Jerry's legal problems that he had come into a significant inheritance that would have permanently lifted him out of homelessness. All he needed to do to claim it was to show up in Florida, his home state, with proof of his identity, but he could not get it together to secure an ID card and make the trip. It was easier to remain a drunk in Grand Junction. Nan and I were disappointed, but it didn't change our feelings for Jerry.

What did change our feelings was the second thing that happened. Jerry had a terrible history with Animal Control over his dog Bear-Bear. She was a red-furred chow mix and Jerry's closest friend, and she was the reason why Nan approached Jerry in the first place, out of concern that the dog wasn't getting enough to eat. But Jerry was derelict in keeping Bear-Bear on a leash, and she would occasionally take a nip at people in defense of Jerry. These occurrences would land her in the dog pound, sometimes for extended periods while Jerry panhandled to pay the fines. Finally, Bear-Bear reached her last strike with Animal Control, and the court ordered her to be euthanized. It still makes my eyes water to think of this poor little mutt who never really had a chance, who was loved and looked after by a man who could barely look after himself, and who was condemned to die for doing what dogs do, defending her human companion.

When Jerry disappeared from the streets of Grand Junction shortly after, Nan and I had few misgivings. We had done what we could for him, and we wished him well wherever he was. So it was a pleasant surprise to see Jerry's face in the newspaper photo and to learn from the article that the HOT people had enrolled him in a rehab program called TLC in Phoenix, where he became a group leader and now manages a group home there. When the bus dropped him off in Phoenix, he had no other transportation and had to walk everywhere, so he requested that the HOT people ship his bike to him, which they did. It was the same bike that Nan and I had bought for Jerry more than three years ago.

Jerry, we're proud of how you have turned your life around. We hope you are happy and that you will someday find a puppy to love as much as you loved Bear-Bear.