Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama Shouldn't Waste Money On Television Advertising

Here's a piece with which we thoroughly agree: "Why TV Ads Are A Waste Of Money."

Steven Stark, in the Boston Phoenix, hits the nail on the head here. Not only is the era of effective television advertising in a national campaign past us, but the notion of spending money on television in JUNE of an election year--as Obama evidently is doing now--is just silly.

It's nice that the Obama campaign has the money, but they'd be far wiser to invest it in infrastructure, especially for getting the vote out in swing states, and especially in those swing states that permit "early voting."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

McCain = Bush: More O' The Same!

Let's face it, a McCain presidency would just be four more years of the Republicans who have f'd our country for the past eight years. McCain = Bush. Or Mc = W. With the help of our friends Cathy H., Nancy H. and Joe T. (the latter two graphic artists) we're delighted to unveil our anti-Bush = McCain logo for the campaign, above.
Makes a great bumper sticker, or T-shirt. We hope to have more info soon on where you can get one!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bandon Dunes: An Invigorating Golf Challenge

When we go on one of our periodic golf boondoggles, we like to give our readers and prospective golf boondogglers a report on the courses we played.

We just returned from Bandon Dunes, a golf resort on the southwest Oregon coast that has justifiably earned a terrific reputation as a destination stop for golfers. Bandon is not easy to get to, even in Oregon. For us East Coasters it was certainly a challenge, but one well worth the trouble.

We flew from Washington to Portland, Oregon, then drove the four and a half hours to Bandon. Other possibilities: fly to Salt Lake City, then to Eugene, Oregon, which is only two and a half hours from Bandon. Or fly the final leg from Portland to North Bend, Oregon, which is still a good 30 minutes from Bandon. (Or fly your personal G-5 to a local airstrip.)

We suggest you consider the drive from Portland. The first 2-2.5 hours is pretty boring, on interstate 5, but the last two hours is a great introduction to Oregon. (Since we arrived at night, we drove the first half, to Eugene, and spent the night, then finished the trip in the morning. We would not recommend the latter half of the trip at night.) About half that final drive is through the fir forested hills of western Oregon, where logging operations are plainly in sight. Much of it parallels the tranquil lower Umqua River with its RV parks and houseboats. Along the way is an elk viewing station, but we didn't see any elk (wrong time of day).

The other half of the final drive is down the southern Oregon coast with its massive dunes and small coastal towns. During the summer this is RV heaven (at least unless gas prices kill the trade) as well as a magnet for ATV'ers running through the dunes. You'll be happy for the periodic passing lanes on the narrow roads as you come up behind the RV's pulling trailers full of ATV's.
The Bandon Dunes resort itself is pretty isolated, about three miles up the road from the tiny coastal town of Bandon. (You'll see "tsunami evacuation route" signs in the lower lying towns--a major fault line lies off the Oregon coast, which could trigger a tidal wave with only a few minutes of warning.)

Bandon Dunes has three golf courses: the original, aptly called Bandon Dunes; the newer Pacific Dunes; and the newest Bandon Trails. A fourth course is almost complete, and plans are on the board for a fifth, along with a world class par three. There is also a little advertised par three next to the ginormous practice area adjacent to Pacific Dunes.

Pacific Dunes (pictured at the top of this post) is currently rated number 14 on Golf Digest's Top 100 courses in the U.S., with Bandon Dunes at number 31. Both are terrific courses, but don't bypass Bandon Trails (pictured below). In some ways Bandon Trails is the more distinctive course, but it lacks the Pacific Ocean vistas (and punishing winds) that are the signatures of the other two tracks.
We played Pacific twice, Bandon Dunes twice and Trails once. If we had it to do over, we'd have done Trails twice and maybe Pacific just once.

A word to the wise: after all that travelling to get there, most golfers will be anxious to conquer the more highly rated Pacific Dunes course as soon as possible. Our advice: hold off, if you can, especially if you are a mid-to-high handicapper. Pacific Dunes is a very difficult course, with lightning fast greens, hard fairways that always seem to lead to impossible bunkers, ball-eating gourse, occasional fog and constant wind. The greens at Pacific Dunes, in particular, take some getting used to, and trying Bandon Dunes first will be an easier introduction to this type of green.
All the courses at Bandon represent true "links" golf. The fairways are hard, with a thin layer of grass packed with sand. A well struck ball will roll for quite a ways, which is nice if it rolls closer to the pin and ends up in a (rare) good lie, but no so nice when it goes into a pot-bunker, or into the heather, or down some huge hill (or over a cliff onto the beach a 100 feet below). It is very difficult to spin a ball off these fairways.

The greens are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the fairways. They are also quite hard--there's really no use for a ball-mark repair tool here because there are no ball marks. Playing these courses gives you a real appreciation for the strategies employed at the British Open. Often, you want to land your ball well in front of the green and let it roll up, instead of landing on the green in what seems like a perfect position, only to watch your ball roll, and roll, and roll some more and then disappear over a 20 foot embankment. That happens a lot, especially on Pacific Dunes.
You can also putt from well off the greens. In effect, every green is about 100 yards deep and 50 yards wide, and you'll find yourself taking some of the wildest putts you've ever attempted, often from the bottom of some hillock that obscures your view of the flag. Unfortunately, judging the speed necessary to get a putt up one of those hills--without rolling back down and past you--without having it then scoot to the other side and down another hill takes considerable practice. Again, the problem is most evident on Pacific Dunes.

[Just to prove a point, two of us tried putting on one hole from 120 yards out after each hitting short irons to the green. Both of us easily got it to the green, the Curmudgeon actually chasing through the green and up a little hill (where his 120 yard pitch had also ended up).]

The bunkers on all three courses are quite fearsome and often in the line of a good shot. The sand in the bunkers on Pacific is pretty thin--it gets blown out--so you have to learn to pick the ball out without sailing it over your objective. Some rather unprintable words were heard emanating from members of our group down in those bunkers.

In the summer it's pretty dry along the Oregon coast, so rain is not a big deal. But wind is. We were fortunate that the wind didn't get much above 15-20 knots during our visit. Our caddies said 25-35 knots would be more typical, especially in the afternoons.

The climate in Oregon is quite cool. During our stay--this is late June, mind you--the highest temperature was probably about 64 degrees. It's not unusual for the high to be in the 50's this time of year, along with all that wind. So bring long pants and windgear. Don't worry if you forget or are just ignorant of conditions, however, as the Bandon pro shops are heavily stocked with the latest in gear to keep you warm in a howling wind.

We should also mention that Bandon--as any true golf resort should--prohibits golf carts and requires walking. The terrain is hilly, so you might not want to play 36 holes your first day there. Since everyone walks, they have a very active caddie program, employing more than 300 caddies during peak season. The four caddies we had for our group of eight over four days were all excellent. If you don't want to spring for a caddy, you can take a "trolley"--a wide-wheeled pull cart that you're allowed to drag right across the greens. We'd STRONGLY recommend caddies, however, unless you've played the courses a few times. Many times our first thought as to where to put a tee ball would have been a disaster but for the correct advice of our caddies.

Accommodations at Bandon are quite nice, but (like most first rate golf resorts) pricey. Not surprisingly, Bandon draws a lot of groups--foursomes, eightsomes, etc.--of mostly male golfers, so much of the lodging is designed to fit those golfers' needs. Four of our group of eight stayed in a suite at the lodge that had four individual bedrooms. The other four of us stayed in some very nice double rooms--two king-size beds, working fireplace, split bathroom, sitting area. (One of our two-somes split up the first night due to alleged snoring.)

Most of the architecture is post and beam using Oregon's timber, with lots of windows and a modern feel.

The dining at Bandon is ok. As with many isolated golf resorts there's really no competition and the fare is somewhat lowest-common-denominator. Don't get us wrong--the food is fine; just maybe not quite so fine as the price! At least we had no trouble getting tables for our large group, without advance reservations, at the various Bandon restaurants and bars.

If you're there for a few days, however, you may want to venture out of the enclave. We did so one night, eating at a charmingly small Italian restaurant in the town of Bandon called Alloro. We heard there are a couple other decent options in the town as well. We wouldn't recommend driving all the way up to Coos Bay/North Bend, unless you have a craving for gambling that might be satisfied by the Indian casino up that way.

Getting around the resort is easy with a shuttle system that is frequent and reliable. The staff is quite friendly. Evidently the area was quite economically depressed before the resort was built, so many of the workers there are thankful for their jobs. We wish there was room for a practice area/range by each golf course, but there's not, so instead there is one massive practice facility adjacent to Pacific Dunes. It's not far to go, but when your tee time is only 20 minutes away it is a bit inconvenient.

If you take the trouble to go to Bandon, then you're going for the golf. And that, we can assure you, is worth the trip. Just don't be surprised if your handicap is a point or two higher when you leave than when you arrived.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Virginia Battleground: Obama By One Point

Astute readers will note that the Curmdugeon has already said that summer polls are meaningless. They are.

Notwithstanding that, here's a Rasmussen poll of Virginia showing Obama up by one point (statistically, a dead heat) over McCain in the Virginia battleground.

Could be the best battle here since Lee versus Grant, but not quite as deadly.

DC Fundraiser for Tom Perriello

A little while back, we wrote about Tom Perriello, Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia's 5th Congressional District, which includes Charlottesville. (See "Meet Tom Perriello.")

Tom is running against Virgil Goode, an incumbent Republican somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun. Tom's been effective at raising money and has made it into a competitive race.

You can come out and support Tom at a D.C. fundraiser next Monday evening (June 23), from 6:30-8:00 pm, hosted by Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro at her home on Capitol Hill. Minimum contribution is a mere $100. For more info, go to the campaign website, or email

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tiger Woods Ate My Blog!

What's up with the Curmudgeon's blog you ask? He hasn't posted anything for days!

The short answer is: Tiger Woods.

Yes, as a Tiger fan, the Curmudgeon spent many hours over the past few days in front of the telly, rooting him on. Why it took Tiger so long to finally secure his third U.S. Open title is beyond us--guess he just liked making it entertaining.

And for those who though Rocco Mediate had a chance, just remember--it's really "The Tiger Woods Show" and those other golfers are just extras. In the end, it's all about Tiger.

We hope to get back to some serious posting shortly.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What're The Odds?

Here's an interesting legal story buried in today's Washington Post: It seems that Washington & Lee professor who likes to play the Virginia scratch off lottery figured out the lottery was cheating it's customers, and decided to sue.

In the scratch off lottery, players purchase tickets at various outlets such as convenience stores and gas stations. W&L professor Scott Hoover purchased tickets hoping to win the grand prize of $75,000, but later learned that all the grand prize tickets had been redeemed before his purchase.

In other words, Hoover's chances of winning the grand prize were exactly zero, which was pretty easy for the the professor of statistics to figure out.

According to the Post story, Virginia Lottery officials are supposed to have all the scratch tickets removed within one day of the last grand prize ticket being redeemed, but Hoover learned through a series of freedom of information requests that the Lottery had routinely been ignoring that rule. (And you thought those crossed fingers in the Virginia Lottery's logo were for good luck!)

So now he's filed a class action suit, asserting that the Commonwealth earned $84 million since 2003 with this little trick.

Bully for Hoover. We doubt he'll ever win millions in his lawsuit--despite his lawyer's dreams (lawyers typically seek roughly 40% of the cut of any recovery in suits such as this; it's known as the legal lottery, or to regular folks as the "tort system.") But at a minimum he'll surely cause the Virginia Lottery to begin following it's rules and maybe cause a shake-up in the Lottery administration.

Monday, June 09, 2008

What Should Barack Do This Summer?

We hope you noticed that things pretty much played out the way we said they would over the past week or so in the Democratic presidential race. As the last primaries wound down, a flood of superdelegates went Obama's way. He declared victory, but gently. He let Hillary find her own way. And she did. By Saturday, she not only conceded, but did so in a gracious and terrific speech. So now the world is all right again, correct?

Well, not quite so. But we think Obama is in better shape within his party than McCain is among the Republicans. Just look at today's column from Bob Novak on the continuing animosity between McCain and evangelical leaders.

So, what should Barack do this summer?

Here's some short answers. First, and foremost, unite his party. Reach out to Hillary supporters, as he's already doing. See if he can have some high profile events with Hillary and Bill. Just as important, give it time. Many of Hillary's supporters will need the time; let them mourn. Be sympathetic.

Second, raise money. Scads of money. And he will.

Third, don't spend all that money stupidly during the summer. Buying television time in the summer is a complete waste of money. Sure, there will be "media advisers" urging him to do that, to "define yourself" before McCain does, blah, blah, blah. These people make their money selling TV. Ignore them. NO ONE IS REALLY PAYING ATTENTION except those who've already made up their minds.

Instead, concentrate on the ground game and uniting the party. The ground game in most campaigns is like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. Make this time different. Obama had an incredibly impressive and effective field operation in the primaries. Now, do the same, on steroids, for the general election, especially in battleground states. And really focus on how to take advantage of early voting in those states that allow it.

AFTER the Democratic convention, with it's inevitable "bounce" (followed by the GOP bounce), Obama can start the television campaign and begin pulling out the paid media stops. That's when the real campaign begins. Obama needs to remember that most people aren't like the political junkies and media punditocracy he's surrounded by. Most people can only focus on this for so long without burning out, so don't bug them during the summer, and don't overreact to McCain and his people (react, but be cool about it).

And don't pay too much attention to the polls during the summer either. We know it's going to be a pretty close election. The polls will wax and wane a bit, but not too much. Until Labor Day they're pretty meaningless, except maybe on how Americans feel about issues (instead of candidates).

And have a nice summer--you earned it!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Time To Go Back To Work?

Every now and then the Curmudgeon will find himself doing something that makes him ask: is it time for me to get a real job and go back to work?

Fortunately, the feeling is usually fleeting.

This morning, the Curmudgeon found himself in one of those situations. Son #2 needs to bring a "candy topping" to his religious school class tonight as part of the kids' ice cream sundae celebration of the end of their school year.

Sounds simple enough. But then we found ourself not only buying M&M's and Butterfingers at the store, but putting them in little baggies and pounding them with a hammer so they'd have the consistency of those candy toppings you get at any good ice cream shoppe (a good ice cream outlet, by definition, being a shoppe, with the "e" on the end, not just a shop).

This took a surprisingly long while because it turns out you pretty much need to pound each M&M separately to shatter it into topping-sized pieces. (Butterfingers are easy--but don't pound too much; also, the chocolate coating tends to stick to the baggie.)
It's also not a good idea to do this right before lunch, especially if you're in weight loss mode and strictly avoiding sweets.
Mind you, we're not against doing our fair share of mommy-like activities around the house. Mrs. Curmudgeon will gladly tell you we're not too good at a lot of them, like arts and crafts projects (unless it involves blowing up or burning something).

On the other hand, we ARE pretty good at some of the things that occupy any good mom's day: shuttling the kids to scheduled activities (especially sports) with all the right gear and on-time is one (and bringing them back with same said gear).

Anyway, we've found the best way to put those pesky thoughts of getting a "real job" out of our head is simply to call Mrs. Curmudgeon and ask what she's doing. Unless she's at Morton's on a client lunch, that usually does the trick.

Of course, we can also take our mind off such perilous thoughts by doing something important, like posting on our blog.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obama Rally At Nissan Pavillion

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama will lead a rally at the Nissan Pavillion this Thursday at 6:00 pm, just in case anyone was wondering if Virginia would be a battleground state this election cycle.

We hope Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart won't be on hand with a phalanx of local police demanding Obama's citizenship papers!

And, if you want to get there on time, leave plenty early--I-66 will be a huge mess out that way as a result of the timing.

Gilmore's Narrow Victory For Virginia GOP Senate Nomination

While we're waiting for Barack Obama to clinch the Democratic nomination sometime tonight, we thought we'd comment on the Virginia Senate race.

This past weekend, Virginia Republicans held their state convention. Former Governor Jim Gilmore barely obtained the GOP nomination for the open Senate seat being vacated by John Warner. Uber-conservative Delegate Bob "Taliban" Marshall almost pulled off a stunning upset, coming just 70 votes shy of taking the nomination after a quiet, underground campaign amongst the most conservative of the party faithful.

While Marshall didn't pull off the upset, his shock troops did manage to unseat pragmatic state party chairman Henry Hager (Jenna Bush's father-in-law) and replace him with a young conservative firebrand.

What does all this mean? For starters, it certainly means more trouble for those Republican officeholders still clinging to seats in Northern Virginia. Party insiders blame their recent losses on not being conservative enough, especially on social issues and taxes. In fact, it's the other way around: more moderate independent voters have been so turned off by the Republican Party of Virginia's brand of intolerant conservatism that they have virtually abandoned the GOP's candidates. That's especially true in Northern Virginia and in the Hampton Roads area.

This is nothing new, mind you. The Virginia GOP has been battling itself for a number of years, with the conservative purists gradually driving out the more moderate wing while shrinking the party.

The ideological purists will no doubt defeat Governor Tim Kaine's proposal to pay for desperately needed new roads with additional taxes, while making no practical proposals of their own. Evidently, Republicans in the state are content to just let the roads and transportation infrastructure gradually crumble away rather than come up with a fair way to pay for improvements.

The party is also likely to be lukewarm to McCain's campaign for President, thereby increasing the odds that Virginia will be "in play" in November. And it appears that many in the party aren't all that enthusiastic about Jim Gilmore either, whose chances in November against the well-financed and popular Mark Warner are pretty slim to begin with.

Maybe when the Virginia GOP finishes driving out all but the most ideologically pure, and becomes a minority party in the state, it will start trying to figure out how to broaden itself as a means of winning. Don't look for that to happen too soon, however.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Denouement? Hillary's Tuesday Night Speech In NY

This just in:

Clinton plans New York speech

By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press

Hillary Rodham Clinton will give her post-primary speech in New York Tuesday night, a rare departure from the campaign trail.

Staffers who have worked for her on he ground in Puerto Rico , South Dakota and Montana have been invited to attend the event or go home for further instructions, campaign aides said. The New York senator had no other events Tuesday. She planned to address AIPAC Wednesday in Washington .

But she is under increasing pressure to cede the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama after the final primaries. There was a sense of denouement in the campaign. She planned to rally with husband and former President Clinton and their daughter Chelsea in South Dakota Monday night — a reunion usually reserved for election nights.

We might add that we expect her to do a bang-up job, giving an impressive speech and a warm endorsement to Senator Obama.

Although much of the press focus on the Democratic Rules Committee hearing was on the more vocal and distraught of Hillary's supporters, our Obama supporter source at the hearing told us she ran into many Hillary supporters who were gracious and prepared to fully go for Obama as soon as the primaries end, i.e., tomorrow.