The Casual Blog

Tag: golf

After the fire, a big picture, and climate change denialism

 

Bee at work in Raulston Arboretum

As usual, Gabe and I got out for some golf this weekend, and it was hot and humid.  We’ve both been getting some better, but there’s still plenty of disappointment and frustration.  My five and six foot putts would not go in the hole. As Gabe said, after an errant shot, “I hate golf.”  But it’s good to have some father and son time. And we are hitting more good shots than we used to, and every now and again a wonderful one.       

 

Speaking of burning up, this past week one of my photos was on the side of the Raleigh Convention Center:  a shot of the huge construction site fire of last March. A few weeks ago, I got an email from the fire and rescue association asking for my permission to use the shot, which I gave happily.  I assumed it was going to be one of many little pictures, rather than becoming a giant. They kindly included a prominent credit line in the lower right corner, even though I’d forgotten to ask for one. It may not be my best picture, but it’s the biggest.  

Watching the fire from our balcony, we were close enough to feel the heat, and we’ve had a ringside seat to the reconstruction.  It’s going to be an apartment building called the Metropolitan. Lately they’ve been putting in the outer layer and glass. It’s looking like it will be an attractive addition to the neighborhood.  

It saddened me to learn this week that a neighbor of ours is a climate change denialist.  He doesn’t think humans are responsible for rising temperatures and associated problems, and he doesn’t buy that the scientific consensus that says otherwise is reliable.  He is a well-educated, intelligent person, and in other regards quite sensible, decent, and kind. His rejection of reality on climate change came as a shock.

There’s been a lot of news about extreme weather recently:  massive wildfires in California, violent storms, deadly heat waves in Japan and Europe, droughts in the Middle East, famines in Africa, disappearing polar ice caps, Pacific islands swallowed by rising seas — and so on.  Not long ago, it seemed like climate disaster would be very bad, but not until the distant future. Now it’s here.

Bad ideas are not all equally concerning.  None of us is free of bias, and we all have our unfounded assumptions, fantasies, and delusions.  But climate change denialism is different from wacky conspiracy theories, groundless superstitions, or any number of wrong-but-usually-harmless ideas.  It has consequences.

Our failure to address climate change has already caused enormous destruction, and the window for our preventing catastrophe is closing rapidly.  Practically all of us in the first world are complicit in some degree, since we almost all use electricity, run internal combustion engines, and eat food that’s produced on factory farms.  Our carbon footprints are big, and to be oblivious to the harm we’re doing is bad. But it’s worse to take the position that we’re doing no harm, and that there’s nothing to worry about.

If my house is burning down, I might understand if my neighbor wouldn’t help me fight the fire.  There could be reasonable explanations. Perhaps she’s ill, or frightened. But if my neighbor is telling others that there’s not really a serious danger that needs addressing, that’s a problem.   

Although it is hard to understand climate change denialism, it is important to try, because there are some denialists who are our neighbors, and we’ve got to live together.  My working theory is that denialism is not the result of reasoning, good or bad, but rather a badge of belonging to a certain community. It signals that you belong to a certain political/cultural group.  It’s tribal.

Staying with the tribe is important.  When our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors were hunting and gathering, they needed the tribe.  Without the tribe, all alone, you would die. It seems likely that our evolutionary success depended in part on brain wiring that made us stay with the group, and we’ve still got that wiring.  In any case, without some degree of conformity, social life, which humans cannot live without for long, would not be possible. So probably most of us are willing to go along with some dubious ideas to maintain the community.  

I heard an interesting podcast interview last week with Lilliana Mason, and immediately bought her book, Uncivil Agreement.  She’s a political science professor who has been working on understanding political polarization, and one of her ideas struck me powerfully.  Mason contends that our political opinions are essentially products of our political groups, rather than our own reasoning. That is, we don’t decide to become a Democrat, Republican, or Other based on our own political positions.  Instead, we learn what our positions are after we identify with a party. What generally determines our views there is a community, rather than reasoning.

Looked at this way, my neighbor’s denialism seems a little more understandable and forgivable, though still disturbing.  It’s unlikely that I or any single person could talk him out of his view. Still, we should keep talking. There’s always a possibility that view could change.  That’s happened with other widely accepted terrible ideas before, like slavery, whaling, child labor, and smoking. We can’t give up hope.

Our new leaves, art, and white supremacy

 

In the last couple of weeks, the trees around Raleigh (“the city of oaks”) have leafed in, and the new leaves are really bright.  It’s a dazzling moment, and passes quickly. I took these pictures at Yates Mill Pond and Blue Jay Point.

I also got in some golfing with Gabe.  He’s been working hard on his game, and making amazing progress.  His tee shots are sailing high and long, and his short game is showing judgment and maturity.  He’s starting to look like a real golfer. It makes me want to play better, too!

Sally and I are so happy that he just started a promising new job got at Kalisher, which provides art and design services for hotels and restaurants (think Hiltons, Marriotts, Four Seasons, and Hyatts, as well as less established establishments) all around the world.  They have a lot of artists, and he’s the senior graphic designer.

Speaking of art, we bought a new Meural Canvas, which is basically a slim, high-resolution monitor with a matte and a simple wood frame.  Meural offers a huge library of old masters and contemporary art to go in it, which is easy to access with a tablet device, and easy to change, with a wave of the hand.  The images look really good, and it’s fun to sample new art.

Yates Mill Pond

We’ve been talking recently about the white supremacy art near us, including monuments on the Capitol grounds to “our Confederate dead.”  I had a closer look at them this week, and determined they were put up in 1895, 1912, and 1914 — one or two generations after the “War Between the States” (as it’s called on the largest monument).  These were probably not designed to help remember heroes, but to reinforce white supremacism and remind black people of their place.

 Last week I heard an interview on WUNC with Maya Little, a UNC grad student who protested Silent Sam, a Jim Crow statue at the University.    She poured some of her own blood and red paint on Sam, and is facing jail time for her protest.  That’s activist art. Maya Little’s got courage.

I learned this week about another subgenre of white supremacy art — picture postcards of lynchings.  On Fresh Air, the wonderful NPR show, Terry Gross interviewed James Allen about his book about the postcards, which were popular souvenirs.   I’d thought lynchings were relatively rare, and done relatively quickly and secretly, but that’s wrong.  In some cases they were advertised in advance in local newspapers, with hundreds or thousands of white people watching for hours as black victims got tortured, then killed, and their bodies were mutilated.  Local law enforcement did nothing to intervene. Starting after the Civil War, there were more than 4,000 documented lynchings. About 100 of those were in my beloved state of North Carolina.

It would be nice to think that we’ve put white supremacist violence behind us.  But we hear every week or so about another police shooting of an unarmed young black man.  Chris Rock, in his recent comedy special, manages to cause both a laugh and a stab of pain when he suggests that we could use some equality here, by having the police shoot more white teenagers.  

The NC Historical Commission recently had a public hearing on whether our Confederate memorial statues should be moved.  Most of the people who showed up and spoke were in favor of leaving them in place, which is disheartening.  With avowed white supremacists getting praise and encouragement from our highest government official, things may get worse before they get better.  Those of us who oppose racism and bigotry (still the majority, I think) have some work to do.

Getting some lessons

On Saturday morning I had another swimming lesson with Eric and worked more on my butterfly stroke.  It’s a very different way of moving through the water, and not easy to get your head around.  It surely does get the heart rate up.  I can now do intervals of 50 meters without being disqualified or dying, which I consider an accomplishment.

While figuring out the butterfly, I’ve been working with Eric on refining my freestyle, breast stroke, and back stroke, which are all by comparison quite relaxing.  It recently came into focus that swimming has always been for me a struggle  — at bottom, a thing to do to keep from drowning.  And now, finally, through the struggle to be a butterflyer,  I’m finding it can actually be fun.  

I’m sure I couldn’t have gotten even this far without a skilled teacher helping me.  I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:  if you want to learn a complex skill,  find a good teacher.  There’s no substitute for having a guide in difficult unknown terrain.  You may get to where you’re going without a teacher — now and again people do — but you’d have to be more-than-ordinarily lucky.   

For this reason, I’ve continued getting lessons on the golf swing from Jessica at GolfTec, and had another this weekend.  We talked about hips, shoulders, and wrists.  Jessica knows a lot about the swing, and she also has helpful technology tools — sensors, computers, and video. I’m seeing improvement, both in my measurements and in how the ball flies, and I understand a lot more about how a good golf swing works.  But it’s hard to change ingrained habits.  When you fix one problem, you may create another.  I’m starting to understand that although there is improvement, there is never perfection.

I was hoping to also have a piano lesson this weekend, but Olga said she was too busy.  With a new baby, a full teaching load, and concert commitments, that’s understandable, but I was disappointed.  Among other things, I’ve been working on Chopin’s famous Nocturne in B flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1, and I’m eager to get her take on it.  Recently I had a minor epiphany that there would never be a point when her response to my playing would be:  that’s perfect, and there’s no way it could be improved.  In the great classical tradition there are always new possibilities and new things to be explored.  

Construction work, butterflying, golfing’s promised land, and some rough rugby

Demolition work this week in downtown Raleigh

This week there was a lot going on at the site of the gigantic fire of last March.  They’ve been tearing things down and cleaning them up, and I’m guessing we’ll soon see new construction.  This operation — knocking down the almost completed parking deck — was what we saw from our balcony on Tuesday, the day before we moved out.  

Since last May, when our dishwasher overflowed and destroyed part of the hardwood floor, our condo has been in disarray —  bare concrete underfoot and furniture situated in unusable places.  It took some time to get estimates, and more time to get the insurers to step up to the plate.  Then we had to pick new flooring and get on the contractor’s schedule.  Then we (that is, Sally — thanks,  Babe!) had to pack up everything that normally sits on the floor.  It’s been a trying time.  

Meanwhile, we got a new Korean  dishwasher that does its job amazingly quietly and has a charming trick:  when it finishes, it plays a few bars of Schubert’s immortal Trout theme.  Of the thousands of engineers at Samsung, there’s at least one who’s a music lover.  

Dragonfly at the pond at the N.C. Museum of Art, August 26, 2017

Anyhow, on Wednesday we packed our bags and moved out, and the construction got started.  We’re staying at a hotel in our neighborhood. It’s fine, but we miss Rita, our cat, and there’s no good way to eat out every night and not gain unwanted pounds.  It will be nice to be back home with Rita and the new floor.

On Saturday morning I had my fourth lesson on the butterfly stroke.  I’ve been practicing diligently, and was quite pleased when my teacher gave me an 8 on a scale of 10.  He challenged me to get more power from the dolphin kicks and make it less about about the arms.  We started working on improving my breast stroke.  There’s a lot more technique involved in good swimming than I realized.  It’s challenging, but also very pleasing to discover new ways to move through the water.  

I’ve also continued my project to improve my golf swing.  Gabe has made up his mind to become a real golfer, and it’s been fun practicing as a father-son duo.  He’s advanced quickly, and is now beating me.  In my search for the perfect swing, it may be that like Moses, I won’t make it to the promised land, but I could still have the happiness of seeing him get there.

But I’m not ready to throw in the towel.  I’ve changed my swing path substantially to come from inside to out and figured out how to get my hips moving separately from my torso.  I can hit a draw.  There are still some bad shots, but more of them are flying closer to my ideal.   

Saturday night we watched the Rugby League national championship game between the New York Knights and the Atlanta Rhinos.  We’re new to rugby, but learning fast, because Kyle, Jocelyn’s boyfriend, is a key player for New York.  The game was played in Atlanta.  It was streamed online with lots of technical difficulties (periods of loud buzzes, slowed video, no video, no sound), and the color commentator seemed heavily biased in favor of Atlanta.  And despite our best fan efforts, our Knights got beat.  

But hats off to Atlanta, which, from what we could see, played a strong game with excellent defense.  And congratulations to the Knights for a great (undefeated except for this game) season.  Afterwards we went to the Mellow Mushroom for some comfort food — a veggie pizza and beer.  

Spring flowers, golfing again, and a new question: is nuclear war good for us?

It is well and truly spring!  I highly recommend getting outside and looking at what’s blooming.  These pictures are ones I took on Saturday at Duke Gardens in Durham.  In the native plants area, the wildflowers did not disappoint!  The tulips were a little past their peak, but still riotously colorful.   

 

 

I read recently that learning new sports could slow down the inevitable mental decline of aging.  The idea seemed to be that new physical activities would stimulate new brain activity.  It sounded plausible, but time-consuming and potentially embarrassing.

It might be more productive and fun to improve at a sport at which you are currently mediocre.  Anyhow, that’s my working theory, as a new golf season beckons.  The last few months I played very little, owing to a series of minor injuries and uncongenial weather.  But this week I resumed my golf lessons with Jessica at GolfTec, and started practicing again, ever hopeful.

 

It’s a shame that Trump is such an avid golfer; it reflects badly on the game.  But the game will survive, and so will we.  I hope.  My confidence was somewhat shaken by recent reporting by Jane Mayer on the Trump circle. Her recent New Yorker piece  focused on Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire with wacky right-wing ideas and enthusiasm for politics.  He and his family funded Bannon and Breitbart News, assumed a leading role in Trump’s presidential campaign, and are now directly involved in presidential decision-making.  

It’s not surprising that there are super rich people with nutty ideas, but this seems new:  super rich loonys more or less controlling the presidency.  The Mercers have promoted the “science” ideas of a bizarre figure named Arthur Robinson who champions the nonsense of climate change denialism.  Again, we know such people exist.  But new to me was his idea that nuclear war could be beneficial to human health.

In an interview on Fresh Air (transcribed here), Mayer said that Robinson and Mercer believe that nuclear radiation is good for people, and actually benefitted the Japanese who were subjected to the first nuclear attacks.  

In this political season, we’ve learned that there is no idea so crazy that it cannot be adopted by certain large groups of Americans.  So there may already be a significant  subpopulation that believes that nuclear war might be a good thing after all, with some of them in the White House.  That’s scary!  We need to reread  Hiroshima by John Hersey, and discuss the reality of the nuclear peril, and try to contain this existentially bad idea before it spreads.  

 

On lovely dogwoods, exercise as medicine, and golf with a big big hole

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This week in Raleigh the dogwoods were blossoming. By the time I got to Fletcher Park this morning, they were past their peak, but still lovely. The tulips had come and almost all gone while I was away in Spain, and I was sorry to have missed them. I took some photos of the remains.
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Gabe came out from Telluride this week for a visit with mom and dad. I was very glad to hear of his successful first season in an adult amateur hockey league, in which he scored some goals. He’s kept up his running, and also has been experimenting yoga, using lessons on YouTube. He asked for some pointers on his down dog pose, and also for a demonstration of a headstand. Fortunately, I got up smoothly and didn’t topple over, and he was suitably impressed.
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I heard a doc on an NPR program recently say that exercise is the best medicine. This makes sense. Staying active surely does a body more good most of the time than any pill, injection, or ointment. I’d note obvious exceptions for traumatic injuries and serious diseases, and still say, exercise is tremendously important for health.

So I feel good knowing my progeny are exercising. In a phone call this week, Jocelyn confirmed that she was doing so, having joined a new gym convenient to her subway stop in Brooklyn. It turns out that she, like me, gets a lot of reading done on a cardio machine. Her boyfriend, a former college athlete, has been trying to give her a little coaching on gym activities, which she has strongly discourage. She likes to find her own way.
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I used to be more like that, but now I am usually grateful for knowledgeable coaching. Figuring everything out yourself, even if it were possible, would just take too long. An example: when Jenn, my regular spin class instructor, made an announcement recently that anyone who comes to class regularly should have special cycling shoes, I took it on board. After several years of spinning, I finally bought my first pair of Shimanos at REI this week. Unfortunately, at my Friday class, Jenn was out sick – I’d been looking forward to letting her know I was listening to what she said. Anyhow, the shoes, which clip only the pedals, did change the experience. They allow you to pull as well as push. New muscles can get into the act.
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I’d hoped we’d have good golfing for the weekend, so that Gabe and I could get out for a round, but it turned out to be wet and a bit raw on Saturday, and cool and gusty on Sunday. In golfing news, there were stories about an interesting new variation of golf in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Instead of the regulation 4.25 inch hole, the hole is 15 inches wide. This turns 10 foot putts into gimmes, and 30 foot putts into opportunities.

This sounds like fun to me. The putting is the most frustrating part of the game. I don’t consider myself particularly bad at putting, but you can putt fairly well and still miss – a lot. I wouldn’t propose to change the whole game, since I’m sure there are those who love putting towards small holes more than anything, and some who are uncomfortable with any change on principle. But it would be nice to have the option of dialing down the fraughtness a bit with a larger hole.

Time again to practice golf

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This weekend, after a spell of unseasonably cool weather, it finally started to feel like spring, and time once again for the game of golf. It’s a noble and beautiful game, played in lovely green gardens with flowering trees and streams. It requires strength and strategy, finesse and delicacy, repetition and creativity. There’s keen competition and also warm friendship. It is always challenging, and at times amazingly frustrating!

I’ve been re-reading my favorite golf instruction book, a book that changed my life, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons (co-written with Herbert Warren Wind, the great New Yorker golf writer, whom I crossed paths with back in the day). It is remarkably careful and thorough, dissecting the intricate mechanics, helpful for beginners, but also with many details that will be understood only by more advanced students. It inspired me to check the details of my grip. Non-golfers, and many golfers, may not realize how intricate a matter it is to hold the club properly. Hogan (and Wind) realized. Anyhow, I decided to switch from the interlock grip to the overlap, with a view to hitting the ball farther. Will it help? We’ll see. For putting, it seemed promising. In practice I rolled in my first two hard breaking ten footers.

Practice, they say, makes perfect. An overstatement, of course, but practice is the way to cultivate a complex skill, like playing an instrument or a sport. I credit my early music training with instilling in me a belief in practice as a road to accomplishment. (Some of my thoughts on piano practice are here.) Fortunately, I actually like to practice golf. When things are working well, and the ball is flying high and long, it’s immediately satisfying. And when things aren’t, it’s an interesting puzzle: what’s not working properly? You can change a little of this and try again, and if that doesn’t work, try something else. It requires perseverance. It also requires patience. It takes time.

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On Friday (a holiday), I took a couple of hours to practice each of the basic skills — short irons, medium clubs, fairway woods, drives, finesse pitches, chips, and putts. (I didn’t have a chance to do sand shots.) In the full swing shots, I was focusing on getting more of my body into the shot by leading with the hips. Some were flying too much to the right, but I tagged a few quite properly. My sight problem made it difficult to see where the balls landed, but didn’t hinder my hitting.

On Saturday I played my first eighteen holes of the new year with friends at Raleigh Country Club. A lot of the grass was still brown, and the greens were bumpy from core aeration, but it was still good to be back. My playing was uneven, and the score was disappointing, but there were some good shots, and hope for the future.

How to eat and sleep better, and a brief report on my golfing

Sally and I stayed up late sipping wine with friends on Saturday night, and I overslept and almost missed my golf game at Raleigh Country Club on Sunday morning. I normally like to get to the course early and warm up before a round, but that didn’t work out. The day was sunny and mild, though breezy.

I walked the course with my push cart. My first drive was weak, and the succeeding drives were mostly shorter than my average.The rough was so thick that three balls disappeared never to be found, and those I found were difficult to liberate. These misfortunes and others caused several triple bogies and a disappointing net score of 103. Yet I hit some gorgeous approach shots. I sank three long putts (20-30 feet). But I missed three or four short ones (three to four feet). Golf is a beautiful but frustrating game.

Back in my New York days, everyone I knew read the Sunday New York Times. You had to read it too if you wanted to know what people were talking about and join in the conversation. I’ve kept the habit, though the original reason for it has largely gone by the wayside. Inasmuch as some of my best informed friends no longer read the Times, I will note two articles published today worth reading.

1. How to improve your health with food. An article by Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, provides clinical support for the kind of eating I’ve been doing in the last few years. Ornish says “patients who ate mostly plant-based meals, with dishes like black bean vegetarian chili and whole wheat penne pasta with roasted vegetables, achieved reversal of even severe coronary artery disease. . . . The program [which included moderate exercise and stress management techniques] also led to improved blood flow and significantly less inflammation” and lowered risk of various types of cancer. The program also resulted in sustained weight loss.

According to Ornish, “Your diet needs to be high in healthful carbs like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products in natural, unrefined forms and some fish, like salmon. There are hundreds of thousands of health-enhancing substances in these foods. And what’s good for you is good for the planet.” In contrast, he cites and large Harvard study that shows that consumption of red meat “is associated with an increased risk of premature death as well as greater incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.”

“About 75 percent of the 2.8 trillion in annual heath care costs in the United States is from chronic diseases that can often be reversed or prevented altogether by a healthy lifestyle. If we put money and effort into helping people make better food and exercise choices, we could improve our health and reduce the cost of health care.”

Ornish doesn’t say this, so I’ll say it: a vegetarian diet results in increased happiness. At least it does for me. There are so many delicious things to eat that also make you feel good. I mean physically and mentally, leaving aside the ethical dimension. But to be clear, the diet needs to include the kinds of foods noted above (though I take exception to the inclusion of fish on the list).

2. Rethinking Sleep. This article by David K Randall calls into question the standard wisdom that we all should be getting eight straight hours of sleep a night. It notes that much of the world today sleeps in other ways, such as millions of Chinese workers who stop for after-lunch naps. It also notes historical references to alternate sleep cycles, including from Chaucer, separating “firste sleep” and subsequent sleep. The article cites a current study in which a common pattern was for patients to wake up a little after midnight, stay up a couple of hours, and then go back to sleep.

This was of particular interest to me, because this happens to me a lot: I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. I usually read something, and sometimes write. I enjoy the quiet time. But based on the received wisdom regarding how much sleep is generally needed, I’ve thought of it as sort of a health problem, and worried about it a bit. Now I’m wondering if the eight-hour sleep prescription is yet another instance of folk wisdom masquerading as medical science.

It’s reasonably clear that sleep serves some important functions for brain health, and that getting too little sleep can impair performance. But there’s evidence that power napping works well for some people. I’m hoping it gets to be more socially acceptable.

Some thoughts on golf and Miami

One of the things I’d really like to improve in 2012 is chipping. Sure, I’d like to get more fit, be a better person, etc., but fulfilling this resolution could be transformative in a small, practical way. My golf game would be so pleased if I could consistently get short shots from off the green closer to the hole. Compared to a lot of things, it’s not that hard. It’s just a matter of practice.

You may ask, what is the point of golf? I’ve asked the same question many times. It can be, as the old saying goes, a good walk spoiled. It’s fears, frustrations, humiliations, and disappointments. At times it’s uncomfortable and even painful. But it’s also about overcoming these things. It’s about courage and strength. It’s very much about honesty and integrity, and friendship.

Golf is full of beauty — the beauty of unique gardens with flowers, trees, lakes, and birds, of magnificent vistas. The beauty of the little dimpled white ball flying as hoped for in a high parabola against a clear sky. It is wonderful to stroke a long putt that curves several feet before finding its way to the bottom of the hole. For all the horrors and rigors, there are incredible moments of transcendence.

And so it was with hope and pleasant anticipation that on Wednesday I played my first eighteen holes of 2012 at the Doral club, in Miami. The skies were blue, and although it was a bit cool and breezy, the palm trees seemed calm and welcoming. With some business colleagues I played Greg Norman’s Great White course. (The other, more famous course, the Blue Monster, was about to host a tournament and closed to the public.) There was lots of water, and lots of sandy waste areas. My tee shots were fairly consistent, and I hit some long and satisfying fairway woods. I did not find the greens particularly difficult. The trouble spots had to do with chips. I’d like to wipe a few of those from memory, such as shots within a few yards off the green that didn’t get to the green. Aaargh!

I stayed two nights at South Beach in a gorgeous little hotel called The Betsy. The lobby has dark wood, palms, and ceiling fans. My room had white furnishings accented with surprising tastefulness in bright pink and orange. There was a television in the bathroom mirror. I’d never thought of needing such a thing, but I loved it immediately. It really improved the shaving experience.

The art deco architecture and bright colors of South Beach are lovely. I’ve thought of Miami in recent years primarily as an airport which, once in, I looked forward to escaping, but I started to see it as a unique and lively international city. It reminded me that I need to keep working on my Spanish.

Gary Player’s diet and exercise routine, and a few thoughts on yoga

One of the nice things about getting older is that you gradually worry less about being cool. You slowly realize it’s almost impossible to be old and cool, and give up on the idea. Letting go of such worry frees up some energy for more fun.

Age is tough on a body. Fight as we will, eventually we’ll all succumb. But I see no real choice but to fight. Over time I’ve become more dedicated to the battle for good health, though it occasionally strikes me that it could be viewed as hopeless, ridiculous, or both. A middle-aged white guy sweating — for what? It’s certainly not cool.

Thus I was cheered and inspired this week by an account of Gary Player’s fitness program now that he’s 75. As golfers know, Player is a legendary player, with more than 160 tournament victories. In his prime, the man was known to be serious about exercise, and he still is. His routine involves 1,000 sit ups and push ups every morning. He does lunges and squats, works with weights, and runs, swims, and does stairs. As for diet, Player says that it’s 70 percent of the fitness puzzle. He eats a mostly vegetarian diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, and aims for portions about half the size he used to eat. He says he has more energy since he cut the meat, and his stomach works better.

I also have found that a diet of moderate portions of plant foods is energizing. And so is regular morning exercising. Lately I’ve been noticing how during most of my waking hours I feel really good, and feeling grateful for it.

I’m especially grateful to my yoga teachers (Yvonne, Suzanne, Kathleen, Jill, and others). Over the past couple of years, yoga has gradually insinuated itself into my life, and has become a good friend. Lately I’ve been doing two or three classes a week at Blue Lotus. Every teacher and every class of every teacher is different. Some classes are quite arduous (think high heart rates and lots of sweat) with an element of risk, and some are very slow and calm.

When I began, I’d expected that yoga would help my flexibility and balance, which it has, but it has done some other good things that I hadn’t expected. It has made me a better breather and more conscious of the significance of breath. It has helped my focus and concentration. And it has made me view relaxation as an essential element of good health.

There’s also something pleasing about exercising in a class. It’s sometimes humbling but often inspiring to see so much strength and grace in the group as it moves together. I like the sound of people breathing in unison. It’s good to be with people who are committed to taking good care of their bodies. And it’s fun.