Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Happy Birthday Grandma and Grandpa

May 31st is my Dad's Dad's and my Mom's Mom's Birthdays.

If they were still alive my Grandpa Dick would be 108 today. My Grandma Nana would be 100. As a kid I always thought that it was funny that two of my grandparents had their birthdays on the same day. Grandpa and Grandma were never all that hot on the idea. The both wanted to be special on that day, and thought that any attention that was paid to one was detracting from the other.

Grandma Nana would have loved to turn 100 today. But she only made it to 95. Which is not bad for a woman who was told by almost every doctor who saw her for the last 40 years of her life that she probably wouldn't live thorugh the end of that year. She outlived most of those doctors.

8th Grade at Magic Mountain

Yesterday my oldest daughter's 8th grade class went on thier end of the year field trip to Magic Mountain. I drove our van with 5 kids in it. I was looking forward to this trip. Magic Mountain has added a couple new roller coasters that I was anxious to try out. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to ride on them.

Over the past few years of dealing with these kids and their parents I have noticed that several parents are more than willing to help out with different events that these kids participate in. However they only help out on their own terms. The are usually superficially nice about it, but none the less they are pretty demanding. So I have tried really hard to be helpful not pushy.

So in keeping with that I told the teacher that I would take whatever kids in my van she needed me to take. Then once we got to the park I would supervise whichever group of kids they wanted me to supervise. So I loaded up my five assignees in the van and then spent several minutes avoiding the other parents who were trying to redo the teachers vehicle assignements. Apparently they or their children didn't like the arrangements. I tried not to get involved. But when the girls in my van who were being bartered for told me that they didn't want to change I told them to get in the car, buckle their seatbelts and wait. Then I stood around for several minutes repeating "Not my decision, I just drive whomever I'm told."

We eventually got to the park and the dividing up of kids started up again. I stood by and waited until I eventually was assigned to escort my daughter and two of her friends. This was a fun group, easy number to keep track of and they all get along with each other. Unfortunately for me they also weren't very adventurous. The went on a few larger rides but spent most of the day on the smaller sillier rides. The kids had a great time and were pretty tired by the end of the day. I didn't get to ride the new coasters, but then the trip wasn't about me, so I'll wait for another day and time.

The trip home was delayed by a stop at Red Lobster for dinner. Again there was several seating shuffles getting eveyone sat down. I just grabbed seat and waited till everone else had things worked out. Dinner was OK. But Red Lobster wasn't very accomidating. We had a group of 14 and each kid was on their own for dinner. Most of them had cash cards they had gotten from the scrip program at the school. However Red Lobster claimed to have a policy of only splitting a group into 3 checks. So we had to divide the table into three groups that would be grouped together on a single check. Then when we tried to pay we had to have the cashier charge a portion of each check to several different scrip cards. It would have been significantly easier to just let us have the seperate checks. Then you should have seen the waiters face when I questioned the automatic 15% gratuity that had been added onto our bill. He explained the gratuity is company policy for groups of 8 or more. I then countered with 1) If it is a manditory charge then it is no longer a gratuity, and therefore a hidden fee that I was not told about when ordering. 2) While we had 14 people sitting at the table he divided us into three groups, took our orders by group, served us by group and billed us by group. Since my group only had 5 people in it why was I being charge a manditory fee that is usually reserved for groups larger than 7?

I didn't get a very coherent answer. Instead I got a "Sorry that is corporate policy." So after he walked away I nonchalantly waited until there were two other servers standing near me then gloated to another parent "I like this manditory 15% gratuity, it saves me money. I usually tip 20%." A couple minutes later after seeing those two servers talk to my server, I was approached by my server who told me that he was authorized to remove the 15% charge from my bill if I still objected to it." I briefly considered having him do so then leaving a smaller tip, but settled for "No, I wouldn't want you to violate your company policy." Then I picked up all my change and left. Hopefully for good. I'm not a really big Red Lobster fan and the last couple trips have left me liking it even less than normal.

I got out to the parking lot just in time to see the "change the seating arrangements in cars adventure part two" playout. The one girl in my van who was being pressured to change cars was sitting on a bench with her head down and looking at no one. Fortunatly the teacher who is in no way as clueless as some of these parents think she is had figured it out also. She asked if any of the kids wanted to change vehicles, when the one little girl didn't respond, she immediately announced that everyone one would go home in the car they arrived in. So I hustled my crew out of there as quickly as I could.

The trip home was uneventful. I expected the kids to all sleep. But it was the exact opposite, they were loud, rambucious and overly excitable. It was a very noisy trip home. So much so that I was actually glad to see the trip end. But at least there was no fear of me getting to tired to drive.

We got home around 10:15 PM. I dropped off a few of the kids with their parents at the school. Then took the one who lives just a couple blocks away from our house to her home. It was a late night and I'm pretty tired today but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill,
that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship,
support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the
success of liberty.
--John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address Washington, D.C. January 20, 1961


It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry,
Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!
The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears
the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field!
Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish?
What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,
as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take;
but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
--Patrick Henry March 23,1775


Throughout our history, America has fought not to conquer but to liberate. We go to war reluctantly, because we understand the high cost of war. Those who have given their lives to defend America have the respect and gratitude of our entire nation.
--George W. Bush, May 28, 2005


I took the first picture at the Korean War Memorial at the Mall in Washington DC in July 2004.

The second picture is the Black Hills National Cemetery outside of Sturgis SD. My grandfather who served in WWI is buried there. My father who served in the Army in the late 1950s has asked to be buried there also.

I took the last picture during the night lighting of Mount Rushmore in July of 2003.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Seventeen Years

Seventeen years ago today my dear wife and I got married.

We were married at Grace Lutheran Church here in Ridgecrest. Most of that day was a blur at the time and much of it still is. The day before I was recovering from my first and last hangover. My friends got me good and plastered the night of the 25th. Not being much of a drinker I had never been drunk before. It was not pretty. Fortunately we were holding my bachelor party in my backyard which is easy to hose off. It needed it.

I got up the next morning and went for a 3 mile run. My head wasn't up to even a 10 foot walk, but since a couple friends were going with me, I wasn't about to let them get the better of me. So I set a pace that was designed to drop them or kill me. I just hoped the former came first. Half way through I lost one of them and the second one dropped out just before 2 miles. I made it around the corner out of his sight before I had to stop. But the run did clear my system out pretty good. So after I got home and rehydrated myself the rest of the day I felt pretty good.

That evening we had our wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. My parents didn't want to limit the rehearsal dinner to just the wedding party but they couldn't afford to take everyone out to eat. So we held a backyard BBQ at my place. The dress for the affair was "a midwesterner's view of California Casual". That meant hawaiian shirts, shorts, swimsuits, sunscreen, bare feet or sandals. We had a couple pig quarters, hamburgers, hotdogs, salads, etc. We fed about 50 people in my backyard.

The next morning, my wedding day, I woke up to find my friends cleaning up the backyard. I started to help but after being repeatedly told to "go get ready." I gave up and went to get ready.

A nice long hot shower, a good close shave and then getting into my rented monkey suit. I had a nice black tux with tails. I briefly considered putting on the bright orange socks that I usually wore to play volleyball. I had been joking with my then fiance for many months that I was going to wear them to the wedding. She had got along with my little joke, knowing that protesting such behavior would most likely drive me to do it.

After I got dressed I was getting ready to walk over to the church which was only a block away. I looked out the door to see how my friends were doing with the cleanup. They were finished and getting dressed themselves. Mindy, one of my friends wives came bouncing in the door, stopped, straightened my tie, gave my a quick hug and told me how great this day was going to be.

At that moment I got nervous. Not just nervous, down right unable to walk, unable to talk scared to death. I stood there for a few moments trying to steady my breathing, trying to lower my heartrate. I couldn't think, I couldn't move. So I took the only calm rational approach to the problem that I could. I staggered back into the bedroom and put my orange socks on.

My thinking was I was wearing bright orange socks to my wedding with my dark tux. How much more trouble could I possibly get into today.

It worked. I was suddenly calm, relaxed and ready to go.

So I walked over to the church, Got my picture taken more times than I care to remember. I got a few chuckles from people who could see the flash of orange at my ankles when I was escorting my Mother, Grandmother, future mother-in-law, and my wife's aunts to their seats. My wife didn't find out about the socks until after the ceremony. Then she thought it was funny. Thank goodness.

So I have been married for 17 years now. It really doesn't feel like that long. I have been very lucky. I'm married to one of my best friends. We truly enjoy spending time together. We love each other, but more importantly, we like and respect each other. We never fight or argue. We both firmly believe that most of the things that couples fight about are not worth the emotional strain of the fight. We are saving our fighting energy for big things. Luckily, we have always agreed with each other on the big things. The small differences we discuss, calmly and rationally until we find a common ground that we can both live with. But even those discussions are rare.

We both like a lot of the same things. We both like staying home. We like working with our hands. We prefer homemade things to store bought. We both work to live, we do not live to work. We go to work each day and do the best job we are capable of because that is what we are paid to do. We do not love our jobs, but we can both think of much worse ones to have. We like things simple. We are just as happy sharing BBQ on paper plates in the backyard with family and friends than a fancy sit down dinner in an expensive restaurant. We don't spend a lot of money of fancy clothes. We would live in sweatpants or jeans and tee shirts if allowed to. We would rather spend time at an isolated cabin in the mountains than at a busy resort. We are both patriots. We both think that properly educating and raising our children is the most important thing we need to do.

I have been married for seventeen years now. They have been the best seventeen years of my life. That is quite an admission for a guy who when I started thinking about proposing had to decide, not if I wanted to marry this girl, but whether or not I want to marry anyone, ever. I think I made the right choice.

Friday, May 26, 2006


So how much trouble would I be in if I put one of these on the back of my dear wife's van?



I got the picture here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Newest American Idol is....

I have no idea.

I have never watched a single episode of this show. However I am really glad that the latest season is finally over so that the Fox News Channel will stop running advertizements for the show disguised as news stories every five minutes. I tune into a news channel to get news not to have promotions for some TV show from their broadcast network presented as news.

Sci-Fi Shark Jumping

The Sci-Fi Channel has jumped the shark.

With all the classic science fiction that has been aired through the years that the Sci-Fi channel could start showing they have decided that the best new series to add to their programming is Extreme Championship Wrestling.

I cannot begin to express how disgusted I am by this move. I have always enjoyed watching the sci-fi channel. Yes, even the bad movies. But I absolutely refuse to watch professional wrestling.

I don't care what Sci-Fi Channels research shows about Sci-Fi fans other favorites to watch. Wrestling is NOT Science Fiction. It doesn't belong on the Sci-Fi channel.

One of my favorite podcasts is Michael and Evo's Slice of Sci-Fi. Recently they have been discussing the idea of a Science Fiction Pay Channel that would work like the Starz Western Channel. Pay cable channel that shows only science fiction without commercials, or chopping up the shows. I would subscribe to a channel like this in a heartbeat. The Sci-fi Channel has been losing my support for years because of the way the chop up and edit the shows they carry. Now they have decided to stop turning good shows into crap and start just producing crap right from the beginning.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sports Night

Tonight was sports night at my kid's school. We usually start off with a potluck dinner and then each coach hands out certificates, trophies, awards etc. to the athletes that played on their teams this last year.

I enjoy sports night because it gives me a chance to honor the kids who played volleyball for me this last year. I also hate sports night because I have to stand up in front of everyone and talk. I get nervous. Then I start rushing, then I forget what I'm going to say. To make matters worse I'm usually so proud of my players that I get all emotional trying to talk about them. Then I get all choked up and come off sounding silly.

Tonight was no exception. I was fine introducing my eighth grade team but by the time I was through introducing the 7th grade team I was getting choked up and misty and having a hard time telling everyone about their undefeated season and the player who won the tournament MVP award.

I had customized certificates and a collage of pictures of herself for each girl. I also made a copy of a DVD video I had made with all the pictures I had taken of the team this year. The school provides a small trophy for each athlete and I get to pass them out also. Unfortunately by the time I got through all that stuff I was getting so emotional that I forgot to give the girls the carnations I had for them.

The Principal covered for me and announced at the end of the ceremony that each of my volleyball players could come get one of the flowers.

It was a tough night. This years eighth graders started playing volleyball the same year I started coaching. They were my first team. It was hard to say goodbye to them tonight. The only comfort I could get was that I still have a fantastic group of 6th and 7th graders coming back for next year and some great fifth graders to add to the mix next year.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Catching Up

I have been away from the keyboard for a while. At least I have not been writing here. I have spent a lot of time in front of the computer. I just wasn't doing any writing.

It's been a busy week. You would think that a busy week would give me lots of stuff to write about. It did. Unfortunately my busy week didn't leave me any time to do the actual writing.

So where was I?

First up, Volleyball. Last Monday night was the first round of the post season tournament. My team played about the way they normally do, slow, not moving much, but getting by anyway. We managed a first round win in two games. This moved us into the semifinals on Wednesday. Wednesday night was a really different game. We played against a team that didn't set or hit much at all. But they really passed and covered the court well. They were really good at controlling the pace of the game. My team started out a little slow but picked it up near the end of the first game. We trailed most of the game by 5-6 points. Then my players finally stopped one hitting the ball over the net and started passing, setting and hitting. We managed to get within one at 20-21 when we had a spiked ball sail long and land near the back line of the court. I wasn't able to see where the ball landed because a player blocked my view. But the main referee called the ball in, but before signaling the point in our favor, checked with the second referee. The second referee also called the ball in. Just to double check the referee called time-out and called the second referee over. I couldn't hear the conversation but the second referee did signal again with his hands that the ball was in. So the referee signaled the ball in, and awarded my team the tying point and the serve. Immediately the crowd of parents sitting behind our opponents started booing and jeering the call. At this point the referee reversed himself. Called for a replay, took our point off the board and gave the serve back to our opponents.

At that point the mood on my team changed and nothing I said would change it. They all just shut down. We ended up losing the first game 24-26 and then lost the second game 15-25. It was ugly, but not as ugly as our main referees selling out to the crowd and allowing them to make calls for him.

I have watched this man referee youth basketball for several years and thought that he was the worst referee I have ever seen. The volleyball games he has refereed the last few years have been filled with bad calls, worse non-calls, and complete inconsistency. I expect referees to make calls that I disagree with. They are human and make mistakes. Usually these calls don't upset me too much because they are often a function of perspective, what the ref sees from the ladder vs. what I see from the bench. But this guy, every game I have ever seen him referee has at least one call in it that leaves everyone in the gym wondering what the hell game this clown is watching. But Wednesday night was a new low. Allowing the crowd to sway his decisions completely in my mind, disqualifies this moron from ever showing up in the gym in his white shirt and black pants again. Unfortunately he is the director of the youth activates here in town so I don't even have a place to go to complain about him. Plus he certainly won't have the moral fiber to admit to himself that he doesn't have the backbone to be in a position where he can effect the outcome of athletic events.

Now I know that one bad call truly horrible call should not be able to completely dominate the way a team plays. But I'm dealing with 13-16 year old athletes who have a hard enough time concentrating on the game when things are going well. Getting them to stop obsessing about such blatantly obvious ineptitude by a referee is almost impossible.

I used both my time outs in the second game to try and get the girls back on track and playing and each time we huddled up I was barraged with questions about that one play from the game before. They were absolutely obsessed and I can only tell them that it was a bad call and get over it, so many times. If that is what they are thinking about, then that is what they are thinking about.

So our season ended in the semifinals. I was fairly pleased with the season. The team went 4-3 and lost in the semis. That's actually pretty good for a team where 3/4ths of the team did not want to learn how to play better volleyball. They were only interested in hitting the ball over the net.


On Tuesday night I had my fifth intramural golf match of the season. I was playing against a golfer with the same handicap as mine. That meant no strokes either way. We were playing scratch. It was a pretty good night. I started out losing a couple holes, winning a couple holes and a couple ties. Then after 6 holes I performed a headectomy on my butt and realized that lately I have been hitting my driver 150 yards, my three wood about 180 yards, and my 5 wood 240 yards. So I quit pulling my driver and three wood out of the bag and started teeing off with 5 wood. Suddenly I was back in the match, for one hole. I won the long par four fifth hole thanks to two really good 5 wood shots, a chip and two putts. Then I lost the next hole where I couldn't use the 5 wood. So we went into the long par five, seventh hole. That is were things turned weird. Both my opponent and I were under net par so far and our match was tied. I shot a double boggie the hole, and won my match. Where my playing of that hole went bad, my opponents went worse. I would like to take credit for my first win of the season but in reality, my win was a gift from my opponent.


Thursday night my daughter and I went over to watch the last night of city volleyball. We got there early and watched a couple of her friends, who were playing in division 1, play their last game of an undefeated season. Then we watched the division 2 finals. Liberties, the team that had beaten us the night before was playing with only 5 players. They played a wonderful defensive game. They passed well, and covered the floor like a rug. Spikers, the other team, the one we were cheering for, was playing the kind of offense that I had tried to teach my team. Since they had only 6 girls show up they ran a 5-1 offense. Their setter was a setter from last year’s freshman team at high school. They ran the offense perfectly. Every play was a pass to the setter followed by a set to a hitter. They didn't have a dominating hitter so the phenomenal defense that their opponents were playing was tough to beat.

The Liberties jumped out to a fast 7 point lead and held it all the way up to the point where the Spikers finally caught them and won the game 25-23. The second game the Spikers offense sputtered. They just couldn't score against the Liberties defense. They lost the game 15-25.

The third game was great. The Liberties defense held and the Spikers stayed with their offense. They fanatically stayed with their offense. They passed, they set, and they hit. I was very relieved that in the end the well-run offense won. I've spent the last three years beating tough offense into my daughter's head so it was good to see that Championship Match didn't make a liar out of me.


This weekend my daughter had a middle school water fight planned at the park. I drove her over there to drop her off. Then I ended up running some errands for the teacher, and eventually ended up staying for the entire party. Oh, well I like those kids.


I have spent most of my limited time this last week making DVDs for my volleyball team. I took all the pictures that I took last season and put together a video with background music to show all the pictures as a video. Then I made a copy of that DVD for each player. Then I had to generate and print participation certificates for each girl. Then in a fit a insanity I decided to go through all my pictures and put together a collage of pictures of each player.


So that's why I haven't been writing much lately. Sports night at school is tomorrow. I will have passed out all my certificates, videos, trophies, etc. Then I only have to get through my daughters promotion ceremony at the end of the year, and her confirmation a week later. Hopefully things will calm down enough around here that I will be able to be more consistant with my writing in the near future.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

DVD Sniffing Dogs

The Sidney Morning Herald reports:

Two black Labrador dogs have become the first in the world to be trained to sniff out counterfeit DVDs.

The dogs - named Luck and Flo - have already passed their first big test. They were put to work at courier company FedEx's UK hub at Stansted in the UK where they successfully discovered DVDs in parcels and packages.

That is pretty cool except for one thing. The next line of the article -

Although none of the discs they discovered was a pirated copy, the organisations behind the trial expressed satisfaction with the results.

These dogs are being trained to sniff out pirated DVDs. Which begs the question does the content of a DVD change the smell of a DVD? If I record a video of my kids on a DVD and then copy a movie onto the exact same brand of recordable DVD will they smell different? I don't think so. However the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) thinks that they will.

...the dogs are expected to go back to school to learn how to differentiate pirated discs from the kosher ones.

I want to know what they told the people who's packages they opened? "Sorry our dog smelled the DVD with your presentation to the board of directors on it and we just assumed that you are a movie pirating criminal. So we tore open your box, and looked at all your stuff. Sorry about the mess. By the way, your sales predictions for the 3rd quarter of '07 are a little low. Also, about that disc with the video of your grandchildren's school play - really cute kids you have there. We made a copy and sold it to a child porn retailer, in Hong Kong, to use as stock footage."

So are recordable DVDs going to show up on Fedex's list of banned items? Will we have to sign a waiver when we send videos to grandma allowing Fedex to open and view them?

I think the message is pretty clear here. If you use recordable DVDs, the MPAA and Fed-ex assume that you are a video pirate.

If the use of DVD sniffing dogs is going to become a standard practice by shippers think we all need to buy a couple of recordable DVDs and include one in every package we ship. They are getting pretty cheap, about $0.17 each in bulk. Just include a note telling your recipient to send the same blank DVD back when they ship something to you.

The Movie studios and the MPAA keep screaming about how much money they are losing to piracy. Yet they are wasting money training dogs to try and sniff out the content of recordable DVDs. Now we get word that the studios are paying Chris Tucker 25 million to make Rush Hour 3. Now who is the criminal in that transaction?

Maybe it's not piracy that is eating into the MPAA profits. Maybe it is their own stupidity.

One last little nit to pick, the dog in the picture that accompanies this news article is not a black lab.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Volleyball Camp

Today I had a volleyball camp for my student-athletes that are going to play volleyball next year. We met for three hours this morning from 9 AM to noon. I am really excited about next years volleyball season after today. I have several players who show some real promise. My current players from this year have mostly all improved. Several of them have grown seveal inches. Several of this year's 5th graders who will be 6th graders next season are really catching on quickly. Even more impressive is the couple who are not so athletically inclined and who aren't catching on as quickly show no signs of giving up. I had two girls of the younger girls that I thought we going to throw up at one point. They looked completely blown, and yet they just kept going. I'm going to like working with those girls.

In the even better news was that I met our new coach. The school has hired a new language arts teacher for next year. She also wants to help with the volleyball team. She is going to be a great addition to our program. The girls all took to her immediately. She just jumped right in and went to work. I just hope that no one figures out that she probably knows more about volleyball than I do. She has been coaching about twice as long as I have so I'm hoping that I can learn more about coaching from her.

The camp went really well and ended on a personal high note for my daughter. I end every camp and practice with the girls running a line sprint relay. All the kids in the school all know who the fastest runner in the school is. It's one of my setters from last year's championship 7th grade team. In a purely random fashion my daugher ended up racing her leg of the race against the class speed demon. My daughter started out her leg of the relay about 2 steps behind her competitor. She ended her leg of the relay about 2 steps ahead of her. The difference being the turns. The other girl kept slipping on the turns while my daughter was keeping her balance better. My daughter went home very tired, but very happy.

I just went home excited to keep going but bummed that I have to wait until June 17th for the next camp.

There was one really funny happening during the camp. About half way through the camp I was watching some of my players set and trying to figure out what was so different about this camp from all the other practices that I have run. Something was different and while I liked the difference I just couldn't put my finger on what it was. Suddenly my assistant coach walked up and said, "Wow, it is so quiet."

That's when it hit me. Not once had I needed to talk over the top of, out shout, or interrupt a player who's mouth hadn't stopped running since she walked into the gym. I liked the quiet. Sure there was a lot of volleyball noise going on, but no talking. Everyone was just concentrating on their volleyball. I loved it.


Over the last couple days the good folks of Ridgecrest have been learning how to live without power. Power in the form of electricity. On Friday for the third time this week we lost power. Not just our house, not just a part of the city. I'm talking the entire city was dark.

When I arrived at work friday morning there is was no power in our building. There had been power at our house when I left so I was a little surprised. Since the vault I work in has a building wide UPS we were able to work during the morning. But when I ran home at lunch the power went out while I was here. I called my dear wife at work and found out that they entire base was dark.

The power stayed off until almost 7 PM friday night. The father of one of my daughter's best friends works for the electric company. According to his wife the problems started early in the week when a raven got into the substation and caused the intial power outages. The outages and subsequent repair caused other problems which caused the other occasional outages during the week. Then on friday there was a fire at the substation.

This required the local electric company to get a major part from out of town. All things considered it was an interesting week. I got to test the battery duration on my laptop. My children got to entertain themselves with nonelectric toys. Friday afternoon when we picked the kids up from school we went back to our dark house. Since it was close to 100 degrees outside we rushed into the house in order to keep the hot air out. The house was warming up but the floor was still cool. Within an hour the whole family was napping on the floor. Afterwards we all agreed that an afternoon nap was just what we all needed.

I would like to point out that the unsung heros in all this were the employees of the electric company. My daughter's friend's Mom was telling me that when the toruble started her husband worked 32 hours straight out in the almost 100 degree temperatures. Then he was sent home to a house without air conditioning to rest for 8 hours and then had to go back out to work in the 100 degree outdoors. You have to admire job dedication like that. Of course I've met the man and I can't see him behaving any differently. He is one of millions of average guys in this country who do the hard difficult jobs so the rest of us can live a comfortable life. All too often when we talk about heros we mention police officers, firemen, and our military. But we forget the guys who work in uncomfortable conditions until the job is done, because the job needs to be done.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Last Regular Season Volleyball Game

Tonight was our last regular season volleyball season. We almost didn't get to play. The power in the valley has been on and off all day. My daughter and I got to the gym about 15 minutes early and found the power was off. The teams that were supposed to be playing ahead of us were standing around waiting. I visited with a couple players on the other teams and one of the coaches while we waited to see if the power would come back on.

Eventually the referees called the match and sent the teams home. Since our match was scheduled to start at that time they told us they would wait 15 minutes if the power didn't come back on they would cancel our match also.

My team went outside to warm up for awhile. Eventually our 15 minutes were up and the referee came out to tell us that our match was cancelled. She barely got the words out of her mouth and the whole building behind her lit up. The power was back on, and so was our match.

My team played the first game about the way the played most of them this season. Sloppy. Passing was poor, serving almost as bad. Somehow we managed to win the game 25-21. We changed sides of the court and told my team that they had to start playing volleyball and not whatever it was they were doing on the court that first game.

They did! The second game was fantastic. They were all serving, passing and moving on the court. Well most of them were. We had one rally that went back and forth over the net at least 8 times with each team hitting the ball at least twice on most of the exchanges. During that one game my team ran 7 different pass-set-spike combinations to four different hitters with three different setters. They scored with 5 of the 7 spikes. They did not miss a single serve and only blew one serve receive. We got a little sloppy near the end and let them have a couple cheap points. But they game ended with my team racking up a 25 to 17 win. It was their most dominating game of the season.

I truly beleive that if my team had played like that game this entire season they would probably be undefeated. But that's just what-ifs. The tournament starts on Monday. They set the pairing for the tournament before the season started. We play the team I was visiting with this evening. We beat them fairly handily the first week of the season. But they are a much better team now. It is going to be a tough match.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kosher Oil?

Researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign have turned small amounts of pig manure into pertroleum.

It may be politically incorrect to ask, but inquiring minds have to know.

Will Muslims be allowed to ride in a vehicle powered by gasoline refined from pig poop oil?

Also, will Circle K Gas Stations only sell Kosher gasoline?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Chief Spook

President Bush has selected Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to be the new head of the CIA.

This has caused a lot of teeth gnashing in the Senate and the House. Apparently a lot of people don't think that a military man should be in charge of the civilian intellegence agency.

My question for people who think that is: Why have you not complained about a civilian organization that has and uses drones that shoot hellfire missiles?

Second question is if it is okay with you for a civilian organization to have and use hellfire missiles why can't I have an automatic rifle?

OK, so they aren't deep or insightful questions.

Let me say this instead. The Senate is going to have the opportunity to question General Hayden during his confirmation hearings. Why do they need to do so in the media on the same day his selection was announced? Especially when most of the complaints I have heard seem to be more of the lines of "We don't like him because the President didn't confer with us before picking him." To those complainers I have this to say - "Do you see that big yellow thing up in the sky? That is the Sun. Everything in our solar system revolves around it. Not You! Idiot!"

I think this is a good choice. The CIA needs some shaking up. Obviously the rules have been a little slack around there and some "Whipping into shape" needs to be done. If you want to instill a little discipline into an organization, who better than a four star general.

To my thinking the only question that should be asked of the General during his confirmation hearing should be "What are you going to do to keep us safe, today, tomorrow, and the next 10 years?"

Price Fixing part 2

More ranting and raving about gasoline price fixing in Ridgecrest.

Last wednesday I was complaining about the lack of variety of gas prices here in Ridgcrest. Back then our gas prices ranged from $3.34 to $3.39. Today there are only two prices being charged for gasoline. Four stations are charging $3.42 a gallon. The rest of the stations in town are charging $3.39.

I think we should have salmon for dinner tonight. After all something smells fishy around here. We should at least enjoy a meal if we have to put up with the smell.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Youth Coaches Worst Nightmares

My youngest daughter plays her soccer games on Friday nights. My son's games are on Saturday morning. I love going to these games. Watching these games makes me realize how lucky I have been as a volleyball coach, so far.

What amazes me about these games is not the players nor the coaches. What I sit in stunned amusement of, is the parents.

The parents I'm talking about have belonged to the different teams that my kids are competing against. There are a few who belong to kids on my children's team. But without fail, every game I have attended has also been attended by a couple parents who have got to be every youth coach's worst nightmare. If you have ever attended a youth sporting event you must have seen the type. Loud, opinionated, yells a lot and has absolutely no clue what they heck they are yelling about.

Saturday's game was incredible. There was a forward on my son's team who kept drifting offsides while the other team was on offense. (if you don't know what offsides is in soccer click here) Since he was never involved in any plays, the referees never called him for being offsides. However they did call one of my son's opponents for offsides early in the game. His father on the sidelines started asking what his son had been penalized for. Another parent briefly, and incompletely, described offsides to him. This guy spent the rest of the game screaming at the referees to call offsides on my son's teammate. The more he yelled the angrier he got. I was impressed that he managed to never quite cross the line and become threatening. But he was very annoying. It got even worse as he started sucking the other parents around him into his frenzy. Eventually the whole thing was defuzed when my son's team finally kicked a ball to the offside player's side of the field and the ref called him offsides. After several minutes of "about time" yelling and self congratulations they started quieting down.

I also like the fathers that stand about 10 feet apart and yell conflicting advice at the player with the ball. One will be repeatedly yelling "Run with it!" while the other one yells "Clear it!" over and over again.

Then there is the parents who do know a little about soccer who yell instructions constantly. I asked my kids once if they could hear all the parents yelling on the sidelines. They both assured me that they either couldn't hear the parents or they didn't listen. They only listened when the coach yelled at them. Many of them don't seem to listen to him either.

I have been really lucky as a coach so far. I haven't had to deal with any really opinionated parents yet. At least none who mouth off during games. I did have to tell one parent two years ago to sit down and stop yelling at the ref. They sat down and then after the game apoligized to me and the official. I've had to point out to a couple others that their disparaging comments about the other team were audiable on the sidelines. They stopped immediately. I've had to have one meetings with the Principal, a player and her mother who were upset because the player felt as though I was not giving her enough special attention. I'm not kidding! She didn't insist on being treated like the rest of the team, she insisted on being special. So I put her on my special list of players that I make sure get treated exactly like all the other players on the team.

But for the most part I've been blessed with good parents. They do the things I ask them to and don't do the things I ask them not to. I'm firmly convinced that this has a lot to do with the fact that I'm coaching at a Catholic School. But I have also had pretty good luck with the parents at the city league in town. I'm not sure what to do if I ever get one of these soccer parent's kids on my team. Would it be unethical of me to tell my team to use them as targets during serving practice?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gasoline Price Fixing?

I have seen several news broadcasts lately where several high ranking politicians who have been demanding an investigation into the possibility of price gouging involved with the recent dramatic price increases in gasoline.

The Ayn Rand Institute has an informative article called The Myth of "Price-Gouging".

I don't really worry about price gouging. What I want to know about is price fixing.

There have been a lot of people in Ridgecrest for many years asking why our gas always seems to be some of the more expensive gas in the state. The next question people ask is why do all the stations in town charge the same price for gas. When one station raises it's price everyone else follows shortly.

There have been "investigations" in town before and they always conclude that there is no formal price fixing going on in town.

Using the information at California Gas Prices I was able to gather the following information:

Ridgecrest has 14 gas stations with the prices ranging from $3.34 to $3.39. If you drop out the one low station at $3.34 and the two high stations at $3.39, the other 11 stations in town are all charging the same price - $3.35.

But I'm sure thats just a coincedence.

Ignore the fact that a quick check of six other cities of about the same population as Ridgecrest shows:

Suisun City
No. Stations
High Price
Low Price

If you drop the high and low price stations from the mix, the shortest range of price differences you find is Lincoln which drops from 7 cents to 5 cents. The rest of the cities have ranges that run from 6 cents to 34 cents. None of them get close to Ridgecrest's range of zero.

Wow? 11 stations in town all charging the exact same price, with the other 3 stations within 4 cents. That's right, there's no price fixing going on here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Intramural Golf Week 3

Tonight was the third week of our intramural golf league. I didn't write anything about the first two weeks because I'm trying to block them out of my memory. After the first two weeks my team was in dead last place. Granted, there are another 14 weeks to make up ground but we were definately off to a slow start.

Tonight was a much different night. Because our regular A-player is in Arkansas fishing and our sub is a D-player I was promoted from C to B player for the evening. The foursome I was golfing in all shot under a net-par round. My opponent, a 15 handicap, and I, a 22 handicap, shot -1 net. Unfortunately the way the strokes fell my opponent won the match one up. I had three different opportunities to win. All I needed to do was sink any one of three different 6 foot putts. I missed all three. None by more than 2 inches. It was frustrating. My match ended on a really sour note. I three putted the last green to halve that hole and lose my match. I hate three putting. I would rather hit a ball into the water off the tee than three putt a green.

My playing partner who is a 20 handicap was playing against a 6 handicap who shot an even par scratch 36 for the nine holes. Fortunately my partner had a great night. He shot 4 under par, net and won the match 3 and 2.

My partner won both his match and most of the best ball match. I contributed one point to the best ball, but he did most of the work.

Our C-D players had a good night also. They won 2.5 out of 3 points. The 4.5 points we won tonight was the first winning night of the season.

In addition to some fun golf, we had a beautiful evening. The temperature was around 90 at tee time but dropped quickly. The wind got a little carried away on a couple holes but for the most part, was just a nice cooling breeze.