Monday, May 27, 2013

What is it with Golf
2-13-13 WOSO Commentary

Although there are excuses for not meeting my 14 handicap golf goal during 2012, the fact is that golf has been the hardest sport I have played.

I was on the Harvard College varsity ice hockey team, one of the few sports in which Harvard can compete with the best in the nation.  If I could put a moving puck in the net while skating, avoiding being hit physically, and avoiding the attempts by the opposition to stop the puck’s flight to the net, then surely, I should be able to hit from a stationery position, a stationery ball, to a stationary target with only stationary natural beauty being sometimes in the way.

So why has it been so hard to go beyond being a good player with an 18 to 20 handicap to a slightly better one with a 14 handicap? 

There are more, but let me give you three reasons why golf is so difficult.

1.      The golf swing is highly technical and varies with the club. Mastering the swing with the different clubs takes study, practice and patience. Minor mistakes in many aspects of the set up, club selection and swing will magnify themselves incredibly, whether it is a 250 yard drive, a 10 yard chip, or a two foot putt.
2.      Golf designers put hazards all around in every hole to make you nervous regarding an errant shot, and to have you struggle deciding whether to take the longer, safer route, or the more daring, direct one to the flag in order to save a stroke.
3.      A really bad golf shot can ruin your score for the day. That lost ball that went out of bounds into the woods cost you two strokes that is on your scorecard for that day. Missing a shot in hockey or basketball will normally have little or no consequence. This irreversible consequence of a bad golf shot works on your mind in awful ways.

Stay tune to see if I reach my 14 handicap goal during 2013.

4-24-13 WOSO Commentary

Don’t we all wonder what really brings happiness and well-being?

A few weeks ago, a University of Pennsylvania Wharton study by Dr. Albert Mannes concluded that, and I quote, “Bald men are perceived as more masculine, dominant and possessed of more leadership skills.” They are also perceived as more responsible and sure of themselves.

That same Yahoo web site day also had a report on the 2012 State of Well-Being by the Healthway Gallup Series regarding who in the US were the happiest based on a number of criteria.

Utilizing a composite of top ranking criteria, the happiest person would be a tall, Asian American, 65 years or older, resident of Hawaii, married with children, religious, and a business owner earning more than $120,000 per year.

As a short, bald, Hispanic, I find the tall, Asian American and dark hair criteria completely superficial, especially when it is contradicted by the eminent Wharton study on the benefits of baldness published that same day.

You can argue that the other criteria are also superficial, but since I believe Puerto Rico and Hawaii have a lot in common and I generally meet the other criteria, I am personally happy to know that I have a right to be happy.

This is Jorge Gonzalez wishing you happiness and well-being.

Unity and Action
12-12-12 WOSO Commentary

The killing of the young public relations person in Guavate as chillingly described by one of the four participants is mind boggling and for me is another example that stiffer penalties will not work.

Similar to the assailants of the young Dutch student from Baldwin, the killers were involved in car jacking and murder which brings in the FBI, the Federal Court, discretion in denying bail, and the death penalty.  The casualness with which they decide to find someone to car jack – “Es un buen día para un car jack” or “I need money to pay the rent” is indicative of how little they consider the consequences either because they believe they will not get caught or because it is just not an important consideration.

We all know that in the long run education and economic development are the real answers, but in addition to addressing these two areas that will take time, what do we do in the meantime?  I do not frankly know the answer, but others have implemented plans that have worked so we do not have to reinvent the wheel. We need a plan under which all decent citizens unite and we need a plan that is implemented. Martin Luther King once said, what worries me is not the screams of those who are bad, but the silence of those who are good. Taking this a step further, I would add, what worries me are not the acts of the criminals but the inaction of the law abiding citizens.  We need to unite; we need to act. 
Tourism Proposal
5-15-13 WOSO Commentary

When it rains like cats and dogs almost continuously for some 9 days straight as has been happening in Puerto Rico, I think of those poor tourists who come to Puerto Rico to enjoy the warmth and sun. I saw some of those gloomy faces at the Marriott Hotel last week when I went to our San Juan Rotary luncheon.

I can empathize with them since one of my more stressful experiences relate to those trips I take in order to enjoy a particular activity like skiing, golf, or scuba diving. A European ski trip with my son’s family who live in London was saved by snow on the very day we arrived, and a scuba diving trip to Belize a few years ago was luckily only for a long weekend since the swells made any kind of ocean sport impossible for over a week before our arrival and about a week after we left.

My Puerto Rico tourism proposal would be that we guarantee the warm sun.

Should the temperature go below 68 degrees, or should it rain for more than 4 hours between 9 and 5, the tourist would be given a credit equal to 75% of the agreed room rate. This credit could be applied to the hotel bill for room and other hotel charges during the reserved stay, or for an extended or future stay. 

Upon booking reservations, the person would pay a nominal amount per room per day such as $1 fee, or 1% of the daily room rate. The principal reason for the charge is in order to separate the sun seeker from other travelers.

The 25% charged would cover basic room expenses and my guess is that the 75% credit would be spent by most in the hotel bars, restaurants, gymnasium, spa, etc., so that the effective costs to the hotel would be negligible.  

The tourist stress and gloominess would be substantially reduced, and I think Puerto Rico would be a unique and huge attraction.       
Time Shares
1-16-13 WOSO Commentary

Pinky and I own three time shares and continue to analyze whether these were good decisions.  

Time shares vary greatly with some tying you down to a specific location and/or calendar time period. These I would never consider or recommend. Thus what I want to discuss today are time shares like ours that are flexible as to location and time. 

On the plus side of time shares is that they incentivate one to take vacations because you have prepaid a major portion of a vacation’s expense. Last year we used our Melia time share to go to Barcelona for a week with our son and his family who live in London, our Manhattan Club time share to go to New York City for a week where we spent some days with our daughter and her family who live in Williamstown Massachusetts, and our Diamond Club time share to go Morocco. At the beginning of this year we went to Disney with most of our children and grandchildren (we were 13 of a possible 16). I doubt these trips would have been taken without the time share incentive.

The other plus side is that time shares normally are purchased with a certain place in mind. When we visit The Manhattan Club we know the suite and its amenities, we know the location near Carnegie Hall and the surrounding facilities from supermarkets to restaurants to subway and bus stops to museums, etc., etc. In a place like NYC that for us is always overwhelming, it is nice to have a known base from which to work from.

Another plus is that as a time share member one receives special treatment and there is a certain amount of collegiality with the other members one runs into.

Finally, time shares tend to make experimenting somewhat less intimidating such as the. Marrakesh, Morocco week we enjoyed very much.     

On the negative side is that economically speaking time shares do not make great sense. There is rarely an increment in value primarily because there are many time share owners continuously putting their units on sale. This is probably because they are not able to take vacations due to time or economic constraints. At the Manthattan Club, for example, all units were sold out more than 10 years ago but there continues to be a vibrant sales office handling purchases and resales.In addition, the annual charges for maintenance, property taxes, insurance, etc. can come very close to equaling what it would cost to pay the normal rates at the same facilities or similar nearby facilities of equal quality. I had thought that rates for hotel or resort facilities similar to the time shares acquired would, over time, go up in price in Manhattan, Orlando and Spain, but they have not done so.

Also from a negative side is that finding availability for places one wants at the time one wants normally requires advance planning in the order of 9 to 12 months and if one wants to experiment with new places then a lot of time and effort is needed to make all the arrangements.  
11-28-12 WOSO Commentary

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I did …combining volunteer work, exercise and family – it does not get any better.

The morning through lunch was spent at the San Juan Marriot at the Thanksgiving luncheon organized and paid for by San Juan Rotarians and headed by Sol Bravman as part of our community service activities.

Some 600 children from the 11 islandwide chapters of Boys and Girls Club and from the Instituto Psicopedagíco enjoyed the traditional thanksgiving lunch preceded by musical presentations provided primarily by other children. The lunch is served by volunteers with the cooperation of the Hotel staff whose General Manager, also a San Juan Rotarian, and his wife were present. Their two children helped decorate the ballroom with balloons and were part of the serving line of volunteers. We did not break last year´s record of serving the 600 children in 14 minutes, but we were close.

A very positive moment was the joint participation of the outgoing and incoming Secretaries of State, Kenneth McClintock and David Bernier. I emphasize JOINT because they came in, presented, joined the service line and left together. A great message for the kids and something we direly need more of in Puerto Rico where collaboration by political leaders on behalf of our community is a rare commodity.

In the afternoon I walked by myself a wet and empty golf course in Dorado as I worked to meet one of my New Year resolutions of lowering my handicap to 14. I met my weight goal of 155 pounds by Thanskgiving. I do not think I will meet my year end golf handicap goal of 14, but I am sure going to try.

In the evening my wife Pinky put together a spectacular dinner for the 9 family members in Puerto Rico – we missed the five in England and the three in Massachusetts.

God, Papa Dios, has been far too good to me and I only pray that if and when He asks me to face a real adversity that I am able to do so with resignation and grace. God bless you all. 
Technology and Crime
1-9-13 WOSO Commentary

Recent murders in the US and Puerto Rico highlight the role of technology in crime that can be for good or evil. On the evil side, technology has taken a black eye respecting  violent video games and the unrestricted sale of assault weapons; on the good side is the enormous potential that technology can have in preventing and resolving crime.

The savage murder of a mother asphyxiated, stabbed and burned by her adopted son and his friend because she disciplined him too much brought home the insensitivity created by video games. When the police officer asked the son´s friend if he had felt any fear, the matter of fact answer was that he thought he was playing the video game Grand Theft  Auto IV in which the player scores points in carrying various violent criminal acts, . The very weak defense of the video game developer was that murder of a mother was not one of the crimes in the video game. This response is indicative of the insensibility to the problem.

The use of assault weapons in the Newtown Connecticut elementary school massacre brings to the forefront once more the controversy between firearm proponents led by the National Rifle Association and those like myself who understand there needs to have reasonable controls. A recent Business Week issue had a report that epitomizes how far the NRA will go to oppose any gun control measure. In 2007 Philadelphia, with a death rate of one person per day (sounds like a good rate in comparison to Puerto Rico, right?) wanted the state to implement a measure requiring persons to inform the police within 24 hours if their guns are sold, lost or stolen. The goal of the measure was to curb those who buy guns and sell them on the black market. The NRA fought this at the state level and after two years Philadelphia decided to pass this measure via a city ordinance. The NRA argued that this had to be legislated at the state level so this city ordinance has not been enforced.  In fact, the NRA has promoted legislation in Kentucky and Florida that penalizes local officials who promote or permit gun control measures. According to Business Week, and I quote, “under the Florida statute, municipal leaders who let any existing gun ordinances stand or who adopt new ones can be fined $5,000. They also can be fired by the Governor.”  Wow!

On the other hand, we all know that technology can be utilized positively to fight crimes. We have recently seen how cameras at ATM’s, public streets and plazas, and commercial locales have effectively identified criminals. Basta Ya has developed a program that permits an eye witness to contact the police on a confidential or non confidential basis with crime information. Another Puerto Rico group has developed a program regarding the location of illegal dumps. I foresee the day when cameras will be able to readily identify perpetrators, and provide the evidence to facilitate successful prosecutions with live videos of what took place and the contemporaneous testimony of witnesses.

Let’s continue to invest and promote privately and publicly in good technology that prevents and resolves crimes. We certainly have the incentive. We certainly have the talent. Do we have the will?