Tiger Woods brought out all the old stops at Bay Hill

It’s been a long time since September 13, 2009. Barack Obama hadn’t even been in office a whole year. The Arizona Cardinals were almost Super Bowl champions. And nobody knew of Escalades or trees or golf clubs or Perkins. It was back when Tiger Woods was simply “Tiger Woods, greatest golfer alive.”
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That date marked the last time Tiger stood over a putt on the 72nd hole knowing he was going to be champion of a PGA Tour event.

And while it seems like it has been a lifetime since all that happened, the strangest thing about this whole week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is just how comfortable the whole process turned out to be.

Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour event on Sunday. He did it by five shots over a group of solid competitors that while in the mix, never seemed to give up much of a fight. If nothing else, that outline has basically been the story of Tiger’s career when he got himself in the lead.

It was great to see him back on top of the leaderboard again. It is certainly good for the PGA.

Tsunami Ghost Ship

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After a rusty “ghost ship” was spotted last week by off the coast of Haida Gwaii, Canadian authorities have now officially confirmed that debris from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami is approaching Canadian waters.

“It’s been drifting across the Pacific for a year, so it’s pretty beat up,” said marine search co-ordinator Jeff Olsson of Victoria’s Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

Air crews swooped down to survey the decks and signal any potential occupants — but received no replies. Canadian authorities used the vessel’s hull numbers to track down its Japanese owner, who confirmed nobody was aboard. “We know nobody’s in danger,” Mr. Olsson said.

The vessel, a squid-fishing boat, was moored at the Japanese port city of Hachinohe when the tsunami hit. Spotted by a routine coastal air patrol, the 45-metre ship was found drifting right-side-up about 260 kilometres from Cape Saint James on the southern tip of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands), off the coast of British Columbia.

The Pope has his own cologne?

Pope Benedict has something of a reputation for style. He’s been seen wearing Gucci sunglasses and his red Prada loafers earned him the title of “Accessorizer” of the Year by Esquire.
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Now the Pope has his own scent. An Italian perfume maker was commissioned by the Vatican to create the custom cologne. The exact formula is top secret but it’s rumored to have hints of lime, verbena and grass — reflecting the pontiffs love of nature.

Serving mass as an altar boy when I was young the only scent I remember in church was the smell of the incense that I carried at major religious ceremonies. As a Catholic I still expected my Pope to smell like a delicate combination of frankincense and myrrh.
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Here he is with his Prada loafers!

The 100th anniversary of the planting of the DC cherry trees.

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Boosted by an unusually warm winter, Washington’s famous cherry trees are looking fit and healthy this year and are blooming well ahead of schedule.

It’s almost as if they know they need to produce a special show of their pink and white blooms for 2012, which marks the 100th anniversary of the planting of the trees as a gift from Japan.

But as an expected million-plus visitors come through Washington for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival they may not be aware of a facility about five miles from the Tidal Basinthat has helped ensure the genetic legacy of the original trees while also breeding new varieties that the public can enjoy.

These trees reside at the U.S. National Arboretum, dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of ornamental plants. The 446-acre botanical research center houses more than 1,600 cherry trees that represent 400 genetically distinct varieties.

“When people think of flowering cherries, they think of the Tidal Basin,” says Margaret Pooler, a research geneticist at the arboretum. “But there’s so many more species that people haven’t seen yet.”

In celebration of the centennial of the plantings, the arboretum is introducing a new flowering cultivar this month called “Helen Taft.” Named after the first lady who played a pivotal role in getting the trees to the Tidal Basin, the seed parent of “Helen Taft” comes from a cutting of the tree that was planted by first lady Taft and the Japanese ambassador’s wife, Viscountess Chinda, in 1912.

“I think it’s important to recognize Helen Taft’s role because most people have no idea who she is,” Pooler says. “No one even thinks that it took some serious effort on both sides of the ocean to get these plants here.”

In addition to developing new varieties of flowering cherries, the arboretum has helped preserve the genetic heritage of the 1912 shipment of trees from Japan.

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Mayor Ozaki and Mrs. Ozaki of Tokyo are pictured about 1912. Mayor Ozaki was instrumental in organizing the gift of 3,000 flowering cherry trees to the city of Washington in 1912.

In the late 1970, the deteriorating health of the original trees was noted by a former arboretum employee, Roland Jefferson, while collecting data at Potomac Park. The dying trees were being replaced by nursery stock, and Jefferson was afraid the original gift would be lost.

“They’re great beauty and I was concerned about their condition,” says Jefferson, an 88-year-old retired botanist. “I thought they should be saved for future generations to enjoy.”

As a preservation effort, the arboretum obtained cuttings of the surviving trees from the Tidal Basin and cultivated clones. They have since planted 450 of these clones at the Tidal Basin in cooperation with the National Park Service.

“The National Arboretum has been a strong supporter of our effort to sustain the grove,” Robert Defeo, chief horticulturist at the National Park Service, said.

In 1980, the arboretum was approached by Japanese officials who said they had lost the parent stock of cherry trees that they had given to the United States. The arboretum responded by providing them 3,000 cuttings of the original trees.
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“We also added original clones to our collection at the arboretum, so we have them preserved here long term,” Pooler says. “Even when the originals die, we have the exact clones here.”

According to the National Park Service, approximately 100 trees from the original gift of over 3,000 still survive, exceeding the average life span of 50 to 75 years in the USA.

“It’s significant that these have been here for 100 years,” Pooler says. “They’re a constant reminder of a friendship gift combined with a beautiful bloom.”

Davy Jones of the Monkees Died this week.

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I heard the news that Davy Jones had died at 66 from a heart attack while I was driving my car to Alabama where I spent my early teens.

I was thinking, wow that was so incredibly sad…then I began to wonder why in the world was I so upset by this.

I had not thought about the Monkees for a long time and they were hardly the greatest band of their generation. But for me and millions of baby boomers, they certainly bring back great teenage memories.

The Monkees were the first manufactured band, long before the Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys. Chosen by audition, Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork and the Englishman Jones starred in “The Monkees.” a weekly TV caper about a young band which mimicked the Beatles and their recent movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help!.

I was a young teen when the show began its two-year run in 1966 and having caught the pop music bug after the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, I became a passionate fan. The show was on TV in the afternoon so I could catch it after school.

I guess I was so excited to see the Beatles that did not even notice that Davy also performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the very same night. At age 18, he sang, “I’d Do Anything” from the Broadway hit, “Oliver!,” in which he was appearing.
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Television, pop music, cool guys (I thought at the time) : it was a recipe for pop icon success. Short, cute Jones with that great british accent was not my favorite Monkee because the girls loved him…maybe I was jealous?

Hearing Daydream Believer on radio yesterday, I was instantly back in school. Written by John Stewart of the Kingston Trio and sung by Jones, it was the No.1 hit single for the Monkees for four weeks in December 1967.

I realized after listening that I was sad for my childhood which is now very long ago. Then I thought hey, if Davy Jones is gone, my friends and I are all getting old.

Simpsons’ 500th Episode

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Very few television series have ever or will ever achieve what “The Simpsons”” did this week. After twenty-two years, the longest-running prime time series of all time reached its 500th episode and celebrated by evicting its central family from the town they’ve spent two decades building.

Over the years, the citizenry of Springfield has become as important to the success and longevity of the series as the Simpsons themselves. With so many characters to mix and match, the possible story situations remains nearly endless.

And it was with plenty of familiar faces — including unexpected ones like Sideshow Bob — that the town concocted a secret meeting to determine whether or not to banish the Simpsons from the town.

It was an odd episode, with the family finding surprising joy off the grid in a place dubbed “The Outlands.” It even got its own Simpson-esque introductory sequence. As expected, the townsfolk ultimately felt bad for treating the Simpsons so poorly, regretting their decision. Less expected, the family decided they liked their new lifestyle away from all the chaos of modern civilization.

But, inspired by the Simpsons themselves, one by one the citizenry of Springfield started making their way to The Outlands. So much so that by the end of the episode, it was becoming almost indistinguishable from Springfield itself. Does this mean that in future episode, fans should question whether or not this is really Springfield, or if it’s Springfield 2.0 AKA The Outlands?
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The actual homage to the 500th episode happened with the couch gag, which appeared to cycle through every single gag used over the course of the show. It’s a freeze-frame aficionado’s dream! I will find a version of it and post it soon.