Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Open Letter to the USGA on the 2015 US OPEN at Chambers Bay

In case the USGA doesn't get these notes that I submitted to them on their website, I thought I'd also post them here for posterity (embellished a bit)

I attended the US Open on Sunday, with Trophy Club tickets.  For those of you who don't know what that means, I went ahead and paid extra to have access to a large air conditioned clubhouse.  (They also sold tickets to *another* clubhouse  called the 1895 club for even MORE money) I thought I'd need it because I was hoping to take my uncle, but as luck would have it, he couldn't make it, and I had a nasty cold/nasal infection/bronchitis/crud.  So, it paid off for me. 

I used your surveys system at the even early on, but wanted to give you my end of day thoughts.  This is the first time I ever went to ANY golf tournament, and I was not sure what to expect.  Others said that it was hard to see the players, but I wasn't that upset by it.  We found some spots that gave us decent views.  My sister, nephew, daughter and I had a great time!  We are considering going to another US Open when it is in our region (California is close enough for us!)

Things done well: 
  • The Course!
    • Love that you chose a course with fescue grass that requires less water!
    • Love that the course was challenging!
    • I'm laughing at the players who complained about it.  I play at municipal courses where they have uneven surfaces (not always because of aeration).  Man up and learn to deal with lines that are not perfect curves.
  • Ticket package mailed to me in advance
    • Well thought out package that answered most of my questions
  • Lot O special instructions on back, so we could read it as we drove. 
    • The walk from parking to the actual busses was a bit long, but otherwise it was a good solution.
  • Shuttle bus wait was zero, and admission was only a few minutes (we came in around 11AM)
  • American Express sponsored earbud radio was really cool, and came in handy when the Merchandise tent ran out of lanyards. 
  • Jumbotron on the 13th & 14th green that gave ball distance to hole, player stats and amateur standings was very appreciated
  • Lemonade stand as a general concession was nice.  Very popular with a long line.
  • Trophy Club porta potties were very nice!  They were trailers, with porcelain seats.  
    • They wobbled too much, but were otherwise comfortable
  • Grandstand line for the 14th hole was MUCH faster than I expected.  We got there about 2 hours before the final pairings.  The volunteers made the process go incredibly smoothly.
Again,  we had a great experience.  I am seriously picking nits here.  Magnifying the problems to talk about them at all.

TVs in the Trophy Club
There were plenty, but all had on the same broadcast.  This is the same thing I could have watched if I stayed home.  And, the audio echoed so much, I couldn't understand any of it.  Subtitles would have helped.  I was expecting more than one view, guessing that there would be 18 different feeds, one for each hole.  At the very least, the three streams you pushed on the internet could have been on the screens in the Trophy Club. 

Food in the Trophy Club
With the potential exception of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (yay!), it was the exact same offering as what was available at the rest of the concessions.  I'm not expecting caviar (I actually hate that stuff), but I would have paid more money for higher quality food options.  Ruth's Chris Steakhouse was only serving steak sandwiches, while I wanted to be able to buy an actual steak.  The reviews in the room were that they were dry and chewy.

Drinks in the Trophy Club
Full disclosure, I run a whisk(e)y blog Washington Whiskey Watch (also on Facebook with event listings here). 

The drink options on Sunday were abysmal.  I saw less than 10 unique bottles in total at each bar.  The best blended Scotch was Johnnie Red.  I primarily drink Scotch, bourbon, rye, and other American whiskies.  I don't remember if you had any bourbon (maybe Maker's Mark?).  For the price of the tickets, I was expecting to have at least five Scotch, five bourbon, and two rye options.  I was hoping for some more exclusive stuff, like Glenmorangie Signet, The Balvenie 21, or Pappy Van Winkle.  Did the 1895 Club offer anything that wasn't in the Trophy Club?

The British Open has an official whisky sponsor (Glenmorangie).  Why doesn't the US Open have an American whiskey sponsor? There are plenty of incredible American Whiskies (including bourbon, of course).  If you wanted to stick to larger national brands, you still could get Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig, Knob Creek, Eagle Rare.

On the local front, here's a small list of Pacific Northwest distilleries that locals and travelers would have loved to tried:

General Concessions
For concessions themselves, maybe some local options, such as Dixie's, Ezell's, Ivars, or one of several local burger companies (Red Mill, Kidd Valley, Burgermaster, Dick's) would have been something that out of town guests would have enjoyed and locals would have rejoiced in.  Heck, Seattle and Portland have some serious Food Truck culture.  Those would have been great on the course.

The Course
We visited the 13th green, the 3rd green and the 14th green.  Arriving at 11:30, we didn't have enough time, and due to my sickness I didn't have enough energy to check out other places. 

Directions were a bit hard to follow.  I was looking for the 3rd green's bandstand.  Fortunately, a volunteer let me know that that was none, and where the best place would be to stand.  Caught Jordan there!

The course didn't have a lot of shade, and more shade structures throughout the venue would have made it easier on the spectators.

The gallery porta potties were nice.  I didn't see the one option that speed up lines though:  the walk in long men's urinal.  These are huge boons to local festivals that I've been to.

No Photos
This was a hard one to understand.  I understand not wanting to disturb players with flashes or camera sounds, and totally respect that.  But, why were we not allowed to take silent photos from our phones? Or candids of ourselves with friends with the course in the background?

No Outside Food
This seemed just like gouging.  I paid $200 a ticket, and wanted to have some options in case the food at the venue didn't match my dietary needs.

Again, this was all nit picking, and my family is looking forward to attending another golf tournament in the future.  Hope these notes help a bit.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

(Not So) Effective Altruism

A month or so ago, I got to see Australian moral philosopher, Peter Singer give a speech on effective altruism.

I've finally put my thoughts about his speech down.  Here goes:

The speech the Peter gave was interesting. He was very logical, and so I will talk about him in same terms. His logic was flawed.

His equation was essentially this:
If all human life is equal, and if it is easier to measure reduction of suffering than it is to measure happiness, then everyone should give as much money as possible to reduce suffering in others where one's money goes farthest.
By his calculations this would mean giving your donations exclusively to third world country charities, as our buying power there is much greater and simple solutions there would go a longer way than more complex solutions in the US.  Example product  (not mentioned in his talk): Money Maker Pumps

He then went on to say that there are some high wage earning people (CEOs, stock traders, etc), who donate most of their money to charities.  C
ompared to someone else in that position who would hold onto their money for themselves, that this is an incredibly effective way to do good. Take the high wage job, and give most of it away rather than work at a volunteer organization.

He then went on to say that donating to the arts and domestic programs was a essentially bad thing to do, as that money could be used more powerfully elsewhere.

And this is the main flaw in his logic:

There are people who in the past donated nothing to charity at all, but after a family member contracted cancer, they begin to donate to cancer research. 
When you factor in the variable of time and compare what we've done in the past to what we can do in the present, domestic donations are a totally valid way to give to charity.
Finally, he cannot factor in all variables, such as how domestic donations to cancer research may have an larger effect than just helping out people in first world countries. 

What he says may work really well for a lot of people, but he is so adamant that his way is the *only* right way to help people, that I take serious issue with his philosophy.There are many people, myself included, who want to do good in the world, but also do so from a stance of altruistic self interest. I want to help the whole world, but I especially want to help the areas that also effect my life and the lives of those around me. This may be somewhat selfish, but I do so without apology.

I currently donate artwork to Make a Wish's annual auction, and my Lodge serves breakfast bi weekly at a homeless shelter.

My Talented Friends!

I always knew I had creative and artistic friends.  But when I put the call out to see how many of them had their creations for sale, I was amazed at the response.

I'll start with my projects.

I make art and sell it for charity!  You can see the work on this blog:
Gravity Painting

Also, I'm working on a card game, and will let everyone know when the Kickstarter page is up!

Without further adieu, here is a list of friends with links to their creative projects.


Alyssa McFarland:

My lovely wife published a novel, Pieces of Home.
And she has paintings for sale, which you can see at GORDITOS on 85th
RedBubble Products!: 

Ramez Naam: 


Calandra Usher


Todd Gardiner:

Film producer currently shooting the short film, Last Caller.


Neal Skorpen:

Kyle Miller (comics & games):


Stephanie Barnette:

Miriam Keith:


Jennifer Lankenau:



Courtnee Fallen Rex:

Many talents.  Support her here

Her work:

Elizabeth Smith:


Alison Park Douglas:

Handmade steampunk jewelry from Velvet Mechanism
Also, photography!


Jeremiah Jacobs:

Brian Kirkness

Crsi Tiggerlathotep Roswel: