Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Best Christmas Present Ever?

Wow I can't tell you how much better I feel. Once again I can drive my big SUV, fly my private jet, burn wood in my fireplace, leave my incandescent lights on all night and even exhale a little carbon dioxide without Al Gore and his church of rampant environmentalism following me around and blaming me for destroying the universe.

carbon certificate

The best part is you can get your own freedom at http://www.freecarbonoffsets.com

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family to Yours.

Outdoor Christmas Lights

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Meme

Mostly Cajun had this Christmas Meme up on his blog. So I decided to follow his lead and instead of sending it to 7 other people, just posting it here and if you want to add it to your own blog or copy it and paste your answers into a comment, then go right ahead and do so.

Here goes:

1. Wrapping or gift bags? Wrapping, with the color sunday funnies. I learned this from my Dad. Except that we don't get Sunday funnies anymore we get Saturday Funnies but so far no one has complained.

2. Real or artificial tree? I grew up choosing, cutting and bringing home real trees, but living here in the desert real trees are too far away to hunt yourself and when 9-10 ft tall Noble Fir trees started costing over $100 we went artificial.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? Martin Luther King weekend.

5. Do you like eggnog? YES!!! Especially with Kahlua. The kids get theirs straight.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Hard to say, there were so many that they all kind of blur together. My mother made sure that each kid got so many gifts that none of them ever had a chance to stand out. Yes, I do have issues about that. However I'm getting a new car for this Christmas and that is got to be pretty high on the list.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Several

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Again there were so many that they don't stand out. But I do seem to remember at least once each year wondering "What the hell am I supposed to do with this?"

9. Mail or email Christmas cards? Snail Mail. I like writing the Canned Family Christmas Letter each year.

10. Favorite Christmas movie? Holiday Inn or Christmas Vacation. I could so easily turn into Chevy Chase's character in that movie.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? When I see something that I think someone might like. I bought one of my dear wife's gifts in July this year.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Rosettes, krumkaka, Cherry Bonbon cookies, fruitcake, lefsa and fried turkey.

13. Clear lights or colored? Colored.

14. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night - I love Jim Nabors and Kate Smith's versions. But Mannheim Steamroller's version of Silent Night is a close second. All of Chicago's Christmas Album is great.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay at home?
We used to travel a lot since most of my family refuses to come here. But the last few years we have decided to stay home. I love being with family at Christmas but I also like being home.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Duncer, Panzer, Puncher, Victim, Coma, Stupid, Dumber and Blitzkrieg. And don't forget Rude Elf.

17. Angel or star on the top of your tree? Angel.

18. Open your presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas Eve. I grew up wondering why we opened gifts on Christmas Eve. None of the older family could tell me. They all just said "that is the way we have always done it." Several years ago while doing some genealogy research I discovered that opening Christmas presents on Christmas Eve is an old Norwegian custom. Traditionally most celebrating was done on Christmas eve as Christmas Day was a quiet day with the family. Which is pretty much how we do things here. But at least I can tell my children why.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Idiots on the road who left their brains at home but are driving anyway.

20. What do you leave for Santa? Cookies and Eggnog.

21. Least favorite holiday song? Anything recorded in the last 5 years by anyone under that age of 30.

22. Do you decorate your tree with any specific theme or color? Bubble lights and home made decorations. We also have several strings of specialty lights. The tree has so much stuff on it that it is hard to see the tree.

23. Favorite ornament? Bubble Lights.

24. Family tradition? I'm an old fart so traditions are pretty important to me. I have written about our Christmas Traditions here and here and here.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services? Not lately. Midnight Christmas Eve services have been a part of our Christmas Tradition as long as I can remember. I love walking out of church a few minutes after midnight and knowing it was Christmas morning. However our local churches all wimped out a few years ago and they hold midnight church at 10 PM now. So we get out of church around 11 PM. I HATE THAT!!!

So if you want to share your Christmas stories feel free to copy this and post it.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Spirit

We had something happen at our house this afternoon that has never happened before.

We came home from picking up the new car and my wife noticed that the wreath that was hanging on the front of our mailbox, was missing.

Checking out the mailbox pedestal I found the wires that had held the wreath onto the mailbox were still attached to the pedestal. The ends that were attached to the wreath looked like the wreath had been ripped right off from them.

My dear wife surmises that someone just drove up, hopped out of their car, ripped the wreath off the wires, jumped back in their car and drove off. Which is pretty daring for the middle of the day, since I remember seeing the wreath there when we left the house earlier in the day.

The rest of the family is pretty upset by this. My youngest children can't seem to grasp the situation. They keep asking why someone would steal our wreath. The only thing my dear wife can tell them is that they are a lot of people out in the world who only think of themselves or who are just thoughtless, mean spirited, evil or just stupid. Who knows why people would do this.

I guess I am also slightly baffled also. It is not like the wreath has much intrinsic value. It was home made, and had spent the last couple years hanging outside in the sun. So if any of you hear someone bragging about driving around and stealing wreaths feel free to lay a little Christmas spirit upside their heads for us.

New Car

I have one of these parked in the driveway.


My dear wife's two conditions that I would have to meet to have her blessings to start a volleyball club were: Get a cell phone and a new car. She didn't want me running out of town all the time with my old pickup that is falling apart around me, or without a way of getting a hold of me. I was willing to do some car shopping but the cell phone really hurt. I hate these things. But she did make sense so I got the cell phone. That left the car.

I have been shopping for a while and really struggling with what to do. Should I get a new car that I would keep for another 20 years or longer? Should I buy something small and practical that gets good gas mileage that I could drive for a few years then let my oldest daughter take to college with her. Should I finally break down and buy myself that nice fancy sports car or truck with all the bells and whistles that every guy always wants to own?

New or used, big or small, truck or car? I have been looking at cars online and in lots for several weeks. I hadn't really made any decisions, or picked any particular types of cars. But I kept coming back to look at the Honda CRVs, the Dodge Magnum, the Dodge Charger or a couple different used cars. Yesterday I stopped by the local Dodge dealer. They had a 2007 Dodge Magnum sitting on the lot. So the dealer and I took it out for a ride. The car was the low end model SE. That means it didn't have a lot of fancy bells and whistles. But then my basic requirements for a car are simple - air conditioner, stereo and cruise control. Everything thing else is optional. It was the silver color that I liked and it drove well. It pretty much has the same engine in it that our van has, and it has run great for the last 10 years.

The dealer made me what seemed like a pretty good offer on the car. But I wanted to do a little more looking around. When I got home I ran some numbers online to see what this particular car was running. It seems that the offer way below what most guidelines were telling me that I should expect to pay from a dealer.

So today I took my dear wife and kids back to let her check it out also. They all loved the car. I asked the dealer why the offer was so low. She told me that this car had been sitting around taking up space on the lot and no one has even casually looked at it. Everyone was looking at the loaded 08s. No one was interested in the low end 07s.

So we spent a couple hours getting all the paperwork signed and drove home my new car.

BTW, I let my wife write the check (from our joint account) for the downpayment we made on the car. That way she can claim she bought me a car for Christmas. I hope she doesn't try and take it away and wrap it up for Christmas Eve, like we are going to do with our daughter's letter jacket. She got it on Wednesday. We told her she could wear it for a few days but then we were going to take it away from her, wrap it up and put if under the Christmas Tree. We will have to do this at night though, because sleeping and showering seems to be the only time she isn't wearing it.

Back to the car, I like it even if it is a station wagon. I grew up knowing that station wagons were not cool. But now that I am an old man I put a little higher value on space, gas mileage and function that what is cool. besides being a station wagon it looks a little bit like a hearse and what better car for an old man to be driving than a hearse?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Starlings Director's Meeting

Well I made it back from San Diego this evening. I had driven down on Friday evening so I could attend the Starling Director's Meeting. I really wanted to to attend this meeting since I am new to the organization and I had a lot of questions to ask.

We met all day Saturday with an itinerary that covered a wide range of topics for discussion. The highlight of the day was the presentations by John Kessel of USA Volleyball. John was an engaging speaker who spent a lot of time discussion changes to how we should be coaching. I was pleased to find out that several of the things he proposed are things I am already doing. But he made several more points that I liked and need to start working into my normal practices.

On Saturday night we went over to the Epic Volleyball club and played a little volleyball. The facility there was fantastic. It sure puts anyting we have here in town to shame. I had a blast. It was the first time I had been on the court competitively with adults for 12 years. I wasn't moving very fast, I have no vertical left and my timing was nonexistent. But I got through 4 games without damaging my knees or ankles. I scored a few aces, several kills and had two roofs. I didn't keep track of the number of shanked passes I had, but I did blame them on my blurry eyes. Which was about 90 percent true.

After volleyball we all went to El Torito for dinner. That was a total zoo, but fun none the less. I ended up sitting at one end of a very long table with four women from Indianapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia and South Dallas. They were a hoot. We had several discussions about club management, grilled tacos, coaching, salsa, young players, mixed drinks, volleyball parents, slow watresses, inner city volleyball (I couldn't contribute much to that conversation)and just volleyball in general. These four women sure made my little one team club seem like a pitiful effort. I had to keep reminding myself that I have to start somewhere.

On Sunday we met for about 4 hours of more meetings, then an informal hour of just talking afterwards.

I left San Diego around 1 PM this afternoon. I needed to be home for practice by 6 PM. I made it just fine. But i turned out that there was a communication breakdown between the facility director and myself. So I had 8 girls standing around in a chilly parking lot outside a closed and locked building. Eventually I got a hold of the manager and found out that we could not use the facility because they still had things set up in there from some big event they had yesterday. So I gave my girls the night off and came home to try and catch up on a few things I didn't get done because I was gone all weekend.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Shine a Laser in My Eyes - part 5

Well it has been 8 days since my surgery. I didn't go to work again today. The time I was there on Monday convinced me that I'm not ready to spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen yet.

Over all my eyes are doing much better. I was actually able to read the 20-30 lines on the eye chart during my doctor's checkup on tuesday. Since the legal limit to be able to drive is 20-60 he said I could start driving if I felt up to it. So I did. Occasionally I run into a road sign that is hard to see, but for the most part things were pretty clear. Tuesday night I drove myself to my volleyball practice. My dear wife and I were both worried about how I would handle oncoming headlights. But they didn't seem to bother me. However I did notice some sensitivity to bright tail lights. I assume that the color red had something to do with it. But don't really understand why? This evening though I drove home from my daughter's volleyball practice and neither one bothered me much at all.

Today things are a little more blurry than they were yesterday. My close up vision is getting bad. I was warned that this would happen. But I was hoping that since it stayed so clear for so many days that it would stay that way. But apparently that isn't going to happen. I'm wearing my +1.0 reading glasses right now. I'm also preparing to be that old guy who is always looking for his specs in order to read things.

It's late and my eyes are getting tired again so I'm going to end this. Besides I have to get up early. The floor installers are supposed to be here to start our new dining room and kitchen flooring first thing in the morning. Since I probably can't get much done at work anyway I'm going to stay home with them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Shine a Laser in My Eyes - part 4

Well it has been five days since my surgery. My eyes feel much better. Getting those contact lens bandages out of my eyes on Friday made a huge difference.

My vision is improving. But it varies enough that I'm still not driving. Which means that my dear wife is still driving me to and from - everywhere.

My close up vision is still pretty good. I've been warned that I may have some trouble with it as the distance vision clears up. But I was having that trouble with my close vision while wearing my contacts anyway. So I already have a couple pair of reading glasses laying around.

My distance vision comes and goes. One moment I can see pretty well, the next things are blurry. Yesterday I was having trouble with double vision. Everything had an after image to it. The double vision is gone today, but my eyes are tired and I have a mild headache. My right eye is definitely clearer than my left and when my eyes are unbalanced that way I tend to get headaches. The nurse at the doctor's office told me that apparently most engineers have this trouble. Monovision is an option the Doctor's offer with vision correction. This is where one eye is focused for distance and the other for up close. But the nurse said that most engineers never opt for monovision. She says it must be the way our brains are wired that the unbalanced eyes give us headaches. But regardless of how it all works, my eyes are a little unbalanced today and it is giving me a headache.

The bright side of my vision clearing up a bit is I was actually able to see my volleyball players at this afternoon's practice. I had two new players show up at the last practice and all I could see of them was a blond blur and a brunette blur. So it was good to finally get to see them today so if I run into them in town I will know who I am saying hello to.

The local doctor who will be checking my vision told me that I would see pretty good improvement over the next few days but to expect it to come and go on occasion. But so far I have to say it is improving nicely. I'm not sure how long I will be able to stay at work tomorrow. I can't look at a computer screen for very long and if I can't do that there may not be much I can do there. So if my eyes start hurting I will probably just have to have my chauffeur err, my dear wife drive me home.

Now that said this screen is getting bright again and starting to hurt. So good night.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Shine a Laser in My Eyes - part 3

I saw my local eye Doctor this morning. He shined a very bright light (but not a laser) into my very light sensitive eyes. Then he agreed with the Doctor who did my surgical follow-up three days ago, that I am apparently a fast healer. I've known this most of my life. If I take care of wounds I tend to heal quickly. The last few years I've noticed that my healing rate has seemed to slow down to closer to normal. I blame this on this rapidly aging body I'm trapped in.

Apparently however my eyes are still healing quickly. So the Doctor removed the contact lens "bandages" that were on my eyes. This simple act reduced my discomfort by more than half. So my eyes don't hurt too badly now, except they are still rather light sensitive.

Unfortunately, I still can't see diddly squat. My vision is still very blurry beyond about 8 inches from my face. Which is making typing this very difficult because I have my face right up against the very bright screen which is irritating my still light sensitive eyes. The doctors assure me that my vision will clear up over the next few days. I just have to wait. In the meantime, I'm getting my face away from this screen and resting my eyes for a while.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shine a Laser in My Eyes - part 2

I have to make this quick, I'm not supposed to be using the computer or watching television. But at the moment my vision is fairly clear.

I showed up for my LASIK appointment yesterday. After some testing they determined that my cornea is right at the margin of being too thin to safely cut the flap and still reshape the cornea. So instead I had Custom PRK surgery instead.

Custom PRK is similar to LASIK except that instead of cutting a flap they use the laser to remove the epithelium, the protective surface of the cornea. Then they use the wavefront laser to reshape the cornea just like in LASIK surgery.

The main difference is recovery time. With PRK my eyes will take 3-5 days to recover. The epithelium grows back quickly but until it does I have to wear a contact lens bandage.

My vision if blurry and extremely light sensitive. The worst part is that both eyes feel like that contact lens bandage is made out of sandpaper. I have spent most of the day sitting in my living room with the lights off and my sunglasses on.

Speaking of which looking at this screen is starting to hurt so I'm turning it off now. To wrap up, I can still see, although not well enough to drive yet. It is going to improve, and I promise to write more later.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shine a Laser in My Eyes

You know all those warnings about looking directly into a laser? The ones like this:
laser label
that you find on almost every commercial use laser?

Well tomorrow my dear wife and I will drive down to Ontario, CA where I will allow a doctor to violate this well intended warnings and not only shine a laser into my eyes but to use it to cut a flap in each eye, then use a different laser to reshape my corneas.

I decided several months ago that I was tired of being nearsighted and I wanted to give farsighted a try.

So tomorrow I'm having custom LASIK surgery. I have been looking forward to this (pun intended) for several months. Ever since my dry eye problem forced me to give up contact lenses I have been stuck wearing my glasses. The last several months have reminded me why I hated wearing glasses so much. So I have spent the last two months taking eye drops to cure my dry eye problems. Now that I don't have the dry eye troubles I can have the surgery which will cause a dry eye problem. But I can live with that, since I know it will be temporary, and I won't have to run around with my glasses on all the time.

I will probably need reading glasses after this, but I needed them already when I was wearing my contacts. So I guess I'll turn into a old man who has to reach for his specs in order to read things.

So drop me a quick prayer if you are so inclined that I am able to still see my beautiful kids and wife after tomorrow. I know that the chances of catastrophic damage is slim with this surgery but even a small chance is something to worry about. However the Doctor I'm seeing is supposed to be the best. He has been performing this surgery for many years and comes very highly recommended.

So I won't be posting anything for a while. The doctor's say I shouldn't spend much time reading or staring at a computer screen for a few days after the surgery. So I guess I'll be taking a blog writing and reading break for a couple days.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Volleyball Club

Well it looks like my 14 and under volleyball team just might happen after all. I had a practice this evening with 8 girls there and I know of at least two more who intend to play. One of the girls who was there will not be on the team, so it looks like I have nine players that I can count on. I would like 10 but can work with nine.

I did lose two players this evening though. The 16 and 18 and under club had their tryouts this evening. Two of my eighth grade players from my middle school teams wanted to try out for those teams even though they are both only 13. I told them that I would support them if that is what they wanted. So I gave them a few tips on what to expect there. Then when the director asked if any of my girls were trying out I told him yes, pointed out which girls on his sign up sheet they were and put in a good word for each of them. When the tryouts were over both players were offered spots on the team.

This is wonderful for them and I truly am glad for them. I hope they will both have great seasons. I am going to miss having them on my 14s team. We will be a lesser team without them. Especially since I will probably have to replace them with a couple 11 year olds. But we will get by just fine.

I will know for sure what kind of team I will have at Thursday's practice. But I am ready to get the show on the road and get started for real. These last couple optional practice/tryouts have been okay but I'm ready to get going on turning these girls into a team and not just working on skills until I can get them all on the court at the same time.

On a personal note my 15 year old daughter was offered a spot on the 18s team. She hopes to set for them but we will have to see. There is one really good setter on the team and a couple other girls interested in the other spot. So she's going to have to step up and earn that spot if she wants it. But if she doesn't get to set they will definitely be using her as an outside hitter.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

First Geese

I saw my first geese of the season yesterday while leaving my club volleyball practice.

Each winter Ridgecrest is the vacation spot for thousands of snow geese. Having all those geese hanging out at the golf course makes the place kind of messy, but I don't care. I like hearing them fly over. You just have to be careful not to look up at them. I also like seeing the flocks of geese dining on all the different grassy fields in town.

Most of them like to hang out at the golf course and over on the high school sports fields.

Sure I only saw four geese fly over but that means the rest will be here soon. That also means that winter is here - somewhere. It was 78 degrees here today so it doesn't seem too much like winter yet.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jumping Into The Fire

As I mentioned a couple postings ago my middle school volleyball season has just ended. My 8th grade team played their last game on Saturday, took home a championship trophy and then we all met on Sunday for a couple hours of pizza and volleyball – kids against their parents.

I don’t know what amazes me most, that the parents keep winning the volleyball games, or that so far we haven’t had to carry a parent out of the gym on a stretcher. OK, I’m not too surprised by the first part. If we called illegal hits on the parents they would only score off the player’s mistakes. But since we require the players to play clean and we let the parents get away with everything up to catching and throwing.

So I woke up this week, showered dressed and headed for work. Just like every other work day. The difference this week was that I didn’t leave work again at 2:30. I actually got to stay at work the whole day. It was awful. I didn’t remember what working all day felt like. I think I much prefer leaving early and going to coach volleyball. I think that eons long period of time between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM just about killed me. I didn’t think the day would ever end.

So the bubbling cauldron of activity which was my middle school volleyball season is over. So what should I do with all my free time now? I’m trying to decide between:
• clean my garage,
• clean my den,
• mow the grass,
• work on the partially completed patio,
• put away the Halloween decorations,
• pay some bills,
• start attending technology meetings at the school again,
• start talking to my wife again,
• find out how old my children are,
• reacquaint myself with my friends,
• get in a round of golf,
• be a regular on my bowling team,
• fix the back fence,
• get caught up on my genealogy research,
• update my personal website,
• move my blog over to my new hosting service,
• build the shed in the back yard I promised 6 months ago,
• get ready for my daughter’s club volleyball season,
• or ask my wife for her list of things I should do – I’m sure she has one, fed-ex delivered a pallet of paper to the house just last week.

Those are all very good ideas. I really should pick an even dozen of them, or so and get started right away.

- OR –

I could start my own volleyball club with a 14 and under team on it.



So that is what I did. I sent in the paperwork yesterday. So I am now the director of the Ridgecrest Starlings Volleyball Club. I am also the head coach of the 14 and under team.

I’m also the treasurer, board of directors, SCVA liaison, travel coordinator and janitor.

I have six girls committed to play right now and four more that are thinking about it. I also have four younger girls who are anxiously hoping that the four maybe players will turn down the offer so that they can play.

So if I’ve not been posting much lately it is because I have been busy. I had to finish up the middle school season, research starting a volleyball club, get the paperwork submitted, find 10 players and parents who would commit to a season of club ball and find a place to practice.

I also set up a website for my daughter’s volleyball club. You can check it out at Secret City Smashers Volleyball Club.

I set one up for my club at Ridgecrest Starlings Volleyball Club.

Now all I have to do is figure out when I’m going to get the chance to sleep…….

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reply to Bad Sportsmanship

On Saturday my alma mater, The university of Wyoming, played a football game against the University of Utah.

The game wasn't going well. UW was losing 0 - 40 a half-time. Then with 6 minutes and 30 seconds left in the third quarter Utah scored a field goal to take a 43-0 lead.

On the ensuing kick off the University of Utah attempted an on-side kick. Fortunately for UW the kick didn't go 10 yards and they recovered the ball.

Personally I consider a team attempting an onside kick against an opponent that you are beating by more than 6 touchdowns to be really low class. I would love to hear the Utah coach, Kyle Whittingham's explanation as to why he would make such a obviously bad sportsmanship call.

The announcers of the game in CSTV had this to say:

"They are going to onside kick it? You gotta be kidding me!"

"No. This is wrong."

"What is the point?"

"But this is classless in my mind."

"I disagree whole-heartedly with this."

So what did Joe Glenn the head coach of the Wyoming Cowboys think of that play?

Well, Joe didn't waste too many words. He just grabbed his shovel dug for a little while until he got down to the same level as the Utah Coaches and said:

Joe Glenn

Under normal circumstances I would never condone this kind of behavior. But in this case I think flipping a little bird may have been deserved. Probably not appropriate but definitely deserved. I just wish the coach had expressed his disgust with Coach Whittingham in person instead of on national television.

Later when questioned about his finger Coach Glenn said that "Football is an emotional game and he got caught up in the emotions of the moment and wasn't thinking."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Eighth Grade Tournament

After the mixed emotions I left the Seventh Grade Trona Tournament last night I was a little nervous about this mornings eighth grade tournament. My eighth grade team has turned out to be rather schizophrenic. One game they can play like they are unbeatable, the next moment they are losing scrimmage matches to my sixth grade team.

Unfortunately I had to start out the tournament by benching two of my players. In the last two weeks we had five practices. Two of them were for the eighth grade team only. One of my players skipped three of those five practices. I suspect that she only showed up for the last two because her teammates told her I was thinking of not playing her at the tournament. Since on of my other players had also missed the last eighth grade only practice I had decided to make them both sit out the first game of the tournament.

Fortunately for one of them I found out after I told her she had to sit out a game that the last two eighth grade practices that she skipped were not the only ones. She had skipped all three eighth grade only practices that my assistant coach had held for them.

So we started the pool play part of the tournament with four eighth grade players and my starting setter and fifth grade player from the seventh grade team. They all started a bit slow and out of sorts and we let Edwards AFB get a bit of a lead. The girls were starting to get their act together and really start playing but ran out of time and we lost that first game 17-19. Yeah, they play pool play games to 19 in this tournament.

We switched sides of the court and I put all six eighth grade girls on the court. They beat that team 19-15.

The rest of the pool play was fairly uneventful. I subbed my two volunteer substitutes into a couple more games when the circumstances allowed. It was much more comfortable on the sidelines knowing that I had recourses available to me as a coach if things started going badly for the team.

We finished pool play in a tie with the Edwards AFB team. Since we had split our pool play games they moved onto the total points scored tiebreaker that we won by the two point difference in our head to head games.

Winning our pool gave us a bye in the first round of the brackets, an automatic spot in the semifinals and a short while to rest.

In the semifinals against Murray Middle School, the other pool play team that we split with, my players finally started playing the kind of volleyball that I have known they could play all season. They stormed onto the court and roared out to a 22-5 game. Then as thought someone flipped a switch they turned off. Murray managed to score ten points before we finished the game 25-15.

This put us in the finals against Edwards AFB. This team was essentially the same team that my eighth grade team lost to in the finals last year in the seventh grade division. So we were out looking for a little revenge. The girls were nervous and definitely overexcited in the pregame huddle. I had to start three times to get them all to stop babbling and listen to me. I tried to convince them that when the whistle blew for that first serve this stoppe being about revenge, it stopped being about a championship and it stopped being about what they worked all season for (all things they were saying to each other). When the first whistle blows none of that matters anymore. Once this game starts it is only about playing volleyball. I only wanted them thinking about serving, passing, setting and hitting. Five of them seemed to listen and settle down a little bit. The sixth one, my second setter who kept skipping practice was still breathing hard, looking flushed in the face and her eyes were darting all over the place.

The game started out badly with my girls shanking four straight passes to give Edwards a 4-0 lead. Then we got a lucky break off an Edwards error and got the serve back. We exchanged points for a while and slowly started making up the deficit. We took our first lead at 16-15. Once we had the lead the whole team really settled in a started playing. We ran our lead up to 22-17 when Edwards called a time out. I hate when the opposing team calls timeout in situations like this. I never know what to say to my team. Just saying “You’re playing great. Their coach is nervous, that’s why she called timeout. Just keep doing what you are doing.” But somehow it always seems insufficient. But it was all I had today, so I used it again.

The time out really worked for Edwards though. They scored a couple a quick points and that is when my opposite setter started panicking again. She totally abandoned our offense and started hitting all the second hits either into the net, out of bounds or setting them right to the Edwards front line. When the game was 23-22 in out favor I used a time out. I told my panicking setter that I didn’t need any heroes out on the court right now. I needed 6 volleyball players. If she couldn’t do her job and set up the hitters then I had two players standing right next to me who would live a chance to do that for her.

(God, I love having substitute players available.)

We got back on the court and watched them serve into the net. So my girls returned the favor with a net serve of their own. Then with us sitting at game point, 24-23, Edward’s best server came up to the line and smoothly, calmly, served the ball out of bounds.

A couple of parents told me that they wished the game would have not ended that way but that they could have won playing offense instead of off an opponents mistake. I immediately disagreed. In a game like that I will take any win I can get.

So this is the new Middle School Eighth Grade Volleyball Champions:

8th grade Champions

The girls wearing or holding onto the ribbons were selected to the all tournament team. The one in the back row holding the plaque was selected as Tournament Most Valuable Player. I wasn’t sure about that award until I got home and watched the video my daughter had recorded for me. Despite a couple rough spots in the pools games she had a good day and made some really good plays in the last two games. So I had to agree with the tournament officials on that choice. But it was nice to see later when the director showed me his tally sheet he used to make those selections. There were four girls on my team with almost equal MVP scores. He was actually relieved when the winner finally made a couple big hits late in the finals match to distance herself from the others. He told me he was afraid that he was going to have to pick one himself and he didn’t want to do that. I understand exactly how he felt. I wouldn’t have wanted to make that choice either.

I got a lot of congratulations from many people after the tournament. Most of whom seemed a little put off when I would answer “Thank you, but you should congratulate the girls, they did all the work.”

So my middle school season is almost over. Tomorrow afternoon we have a pizza party and volleyball games party to celebrate the end of the season.

Seventh Grade Tournament

Today marked the official end of my middle school volleyball season. Last night my seventh grade and sixth grade teams traveled over the hill and through Poison Canyon to Trona, CA. Trona Middle/High School has hosted the Indian Wells Valley Middle School Championship Tournament.

The previous two years my teams have done pretty good in the tournament. Two years ago our seventh grade team won the seventh grade division championship. Last year my seventh grade team finished in second place, while my eighth grade team knocked off two times defending champion’s Lone Pine. So we had a lot riding on a good performance this year.

Since I play both 6th and 7th grade teams in the seventh grade division I had two teams to take to the seventh grade tournament this year. Since we often have two games going at once my assistant coach opted to coach the 6th grade team and I took the 7th grade.

My sixth grade team were the darlings of the tournament. They didn’t win any games, but they wowed everyone who watched them play. This team finished the regular season with a 4-4 match record. But not all the teams we played then showed up for this tournament. Most of the schools that had multiple 7th grade teams combined them to take one team of their top players to the tournament. So the level of competition was a lot higher than my youngest girls were expecting. But they really stepped up to the plate.

My beginners were hustling, hurrying, and playing better than I have ever seen them play before. The lost all their games, but not by much. In most cases the point spread at the end of the games was less than 4 points.

In a pool play game against Murray Middle School, the eventual tournament champions, in a single game to 19, my girls led or were even throughout the game until Murray finally got their first lead at 25-24 and finally won the game 26-24.

My 6th grade team played 5 consecutive games with only a couple minutes between them. But they never wavered. They got hungry and they got tired but they just kept playing. Eventually they were eliminated from the tournament at the end of the round robin play. But that may have been just as well. I’m not sure they had too many games left in them. They were all pretty gassed by that time.

After the tournament both my assistant coach and I were approached by several parents and coaches for the other schools who just wanted to let us know how much they enjoyed watching that team play. I have to agree with them. They were really a blast to watch play last night.

I am already looking forward to having these girls back again next year. I’m going to have a great seventh grade team.

My seventh grade team had a much different evening. I have had trouble with this team all season. I started the season with only 5 seventh grade players. After the first practice I picked one of the two 5th grade players that I had added to the team to fill in the sixth spot on the seventh grade team. This caused a lot of trouble for a couple of the seventh grade players who didn’t want her on the team because of her age. It finally took the threat to throw one player off the team and a frank explanation to the other that she back off because that fifth grade player was a better volleyball player than she was.

So we plodded though the season with my starting setter and a fifth grader with some occasional help from the other setter trying to carry a team with one player who usually doesn’t show up for practice and when she does, plays like she doesn’t care. Another player who runs all over the court, jumping in front of her teammates so that she can hit 75% of the balls she touches out of bounds, and a player who wants to play, wants to be good, and has improved a lot since last year, when she isn’t crying. Which she does whenever she makes a mistake, when a teammate makes a mistake, when the ball almost hits her or when they are losing.

My seventh grade team finished the regular season with a 7-2 record. So they showed up at the tournament expecting to win. Which I kept telling them was going to be a struggle. Since like I said, these weren’t the same teams we played against during the regular season.

We stumbled through the round robin part of the tournament with a 4-2 record which made us the second seed tournament in the brackets. This is when the tournament turned ugly when my seventh grade team turned into zombies. At least that is what they looked like every time I called a time out and they would huddle around me. It was like looking into the eyes of the walking undead. Four of the six players just stood there staring blankly into space, which is pretty much the same way they were playing on the court. My starting setter and the fifth grader were the only ones showing any signs of life. Unfortunately they were trying so hard to make something happen that they kept making mistakes themselves.

We went down in flames in the brackets losing in the semifinals to the host team from Trona. Then we lost the third place game to our next door neighbors Monroe Middle School. As painful as it was to watch my players lose the way they did it was kind of fun watching how excited the Monroe team was when they won. I was talking to their coach this afternoon and he let slip that the excitement with their third place win was almost non-existent to the fact that they had won that game against us. Apparently his girls had been psyching themselves up all week and had gone to the tournament with one goal in mind – Beat Saint Ann’s.

I really have my hands full with this team next year. I have some new coaching skills to master. I have been working with these girls for two years now and four of them still cannot pass a volleyball. So I have to find a way to teach them to pass because that was what cost us that tournament last night – the complete inability to pass a volleyball.

I think we hit rock bottom in the semifinal game when we let an opponent serve 7 straight service aces on us – underhand. It was not a hard underhand serve either. We got our hands on all seven serves and passed all seven of them either OB right, OB left, under the net or backwards.

I think it was at that point where I decided that I do not want to coach teams next year that only have 6 players on them. I need substitutes. Last night I had three girls who absolutely did not belong on that court playing volleyball. I was sorely tempted in the middle of the semifinal game to call three of my sixth grade players down out of the bleachers and sub them into the game. But instead I decided to let this group do down in flames all by themselves.

I’m hoping that losing that way and having to watch the tournament organizers award all-tournament honors to the starting setter and the fifth grade player over the other four seventh grade players will get them to realize that next season they need to stop crying, start coming to practice, start caring, start making smart plays, and above all – learn how to control a pass.

So I came home last night with mixed feelings. I was disappointed with my seventh grade team. I was disappointed with myself that I let them get this far without teaching them better. But I was thrilled with the heart and determination that my sixth grade players showed in their first tournament.

Reading Level?

cash advance

I don't know if this a good thing or a bad thing. I guess I'm just glad it didn't say that my blog reading level was "See Dick Run...."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Eye of God

This is so cool.

Eye of Jesus

This is the kind of stuff that alGore must have had in mind when he invented the internet. Check out the whole picture here

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


My family loves Halloween. We decorate our house inside and out. We turn our front yard into a spooky graveyard. Then when the kids are done trick or treating we hang out in the front yard and try to scare trick or treaters who come to the house.

This was a different year for us. We are without our oldest for the first time in 14 years. She had a road game scheduled for tonight so she is playing volleyball at Serrano High School this evening. Besides that, it was a slow night. A beautiful night, but a slow one.

The temperature was fantastic. It was one of those evenings where I would have been willing to walk with the kids while they trick or treated for miles. But being midweek and a school night. There weren't many kids out trick or treating this evening so people were passing out hands full of candy instead of single pieces.

We have always made the kids quit when their little plastic buckets are full, and they filled up quickly this evening. So we went back to the house and staked out the front yard. My youngest daughter in her mummy costume, my son in his dracula costume and me in my gray coveralls, hockey mask and axe.

We lurked around for a while and frightened a couple kids but we spent most of our time just standing around bored.

The evening ended on a high note though when six of my volleyball players showed up. They walked right up the driveway with my 8th grade Captain in the lead. But when they turned onto the sidewalk my Captain balked and decided she didn't want to be in the lead anymore. My starting setter moved to the front then quickly scampered down the sidewalk to the front door. The rest followed her watching me as I just sat in my chair and stared at them. Five of them gathered at the front door while my seventh grade setter hung back at the end of the sidewalk, just a little leery of walking down the sidewalk. So she watched as my dear wife passed out candy and I got out of my chair and snuck up behind the girls standing at the door. Then as soon as one of them started to turn around I let out a yell and leapt around the bushes onto the sidewalk with my realistic looking plastic axe held high in the air.

This action resulted in a very satisfying chorus of screams and five girls all jumping and turning in circles as they realized that they were trapped in the doorway. As they settled down the last member of their group finally joined them, got her candy, and we stood around and visited for a while.

I'm glad the girls came by. Spending a few minutes with them was the perfect end of the evening. After they left we waited about 30 minutes more and when no more trick or treaters came by we blew out all the candles. Turned off the lights and shut down the front yard for the night.

Now I just have to wait for my oldest to get home and this will be one more Halloween to remember. Except for the putting all the decorations away. That will take another few days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


My daughter's high school volleyball teams played three road matches this evening at Barstow High School. The freshman team won a close match 2-1 with one of my eighth grade players from last year serving an ace in the last game to win the game and match.

The junior varsity easily won their match in two games.

Then it was time for the varsity match to start. Several of the parents and I figured out we were in for an interesting evening once the warm-ups started. The bleachers were only about 30% full so there were a lot of spaces to sit scattered all along the court. But that didn't stop about 12 Barstow students from deciding that they needed to sit next to us, and right in the middle of the section of bleachers where all our students had left their gym bags and homework. There was not a lot of unused space in this area to sit. But they moved right in and made themselves a home. In many cases these students had to sit with our students bags between their legs, under their feet and scattered all around them.

Both coaches asked us parents to keep an eye on the girls stuff since these students behavior seemed to indicate that they were doing this on purpose and were looking cause some mischief. So we tried to keep an eye on our players stuff and in the meantime most of the players left warm-ups and came up into the stands to move their stuff away from these interlopers.

Unfortunately we weren't sharp enough or didn't get things moved quickly enough. One of the girl's street shoes disappeared in this several minutes. We are hoping that nothing else disappeared out of their packs.

Then the game started. This group of 12 kids put on a display of bad sportsmanship that makes the Cleveland Browns Dogpound look like boy scouts.

I had my video camera running and it recorded almost an hour and a half of these kids teasing, jeering, and yelling crass comments at our players. It seems no one ever taught them the first rule of fan sportsmanship - cheer for your team, not against their opponents.

There was one guy in the group that liked to yell "Go Aztecs" as loud as he could but he only did it whenever one of our girls was attempting to spike or serve. But at least he was cheering for his team. The rest of group just basically performed down to the lowest level they could manage.

The only redeeming part of the night was how quiet these morons got, and how quickly they vacated the premises when my daughter's team won that final point in game five to finish off a 3-2 win in the match.

After the match I mentioned the rude behavior to a couple other parents and they told me that it is nothing new. Barstow High School has apparently had a reputation for years of having the rudest, most poorly behaved, students in the conference. One of the parents whispered that is why he has heard several folks refer to them as A$$hole High.

I asked if they thought I should send a copy of the DVD I had recorded to the principal so he could have a good listen to what kind of representatives of his school his students are. But most of the parents said it would be a waste of time. The school apparently doesn't care. I had to agree. In the last two years I have seen the Barstow varsity team play three times. In those three matches I have seen their head coach yellow carded for verbally berating a referee. She has thrown her clipboard, kicked her chair and stormed onto and around the court ranting and raving like a crazy woman. She had pretty much behaved a lot like the students who come to watch her team play. Since the school allows its coaches to behave like that I doubt they will care how the students behave.

Oh well, we are done with that team for this season.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Been Busy

Sorry I haven't been posting lately. I have been really busy. My volleyball teams are streaming ahead full bore with practices or games or both every day. My daughter has practices and games everyday with her high school team that I like to be at.

My father is coming to visit later this week and we're trying to get things ready for him.

On top of that I have two new computers - a new laptop for me and a new desktop for the family and I need to get them set up and all our data transfered. This is very time consuming.

Plus I have to get all the outdoor Halloween decorations set up.

So I promise I'll try and get some time to do some blog writing this next week. I have been writing on a short story for a writing challenge but I don't want to say much about that in case it sucks and I don't submit it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Shooting Star

My niece sent this to me.

All I could reply was:

Star light, Star bright.
Burning crap I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Not waste my wish on crap tonight.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Select a Candidate

Are you curious about how your personal beliefs compare to those of the 4372 candidates running for the office of President of the United States?

Minnesota Public Radio has put together a little survey that you can take that will let you know some of the answers. Like they say on their website:

This quiz is not meant to pick your candidate for you. It is designed to inform the public of the various stances candidates make. Results are not scientific. Based on a tool developed by Minnesota Public Radio.

I have a much more scientific method of determining who my candidate is going to be. I listen to them talk, and if I have to run out of the room and vomit, or end up screaming obscenities at the TV then I probably won't vote for that person.

If that isn't scientific enough for you then I suggest that you do a little research and look up each candidates voting records and see if you agree with how they voted. Don't listen to what they say while running for office. They are politicians. They are lying to you. The only way to find out what a candidate thinks is to look at their voting record. Anything they say now that they are a candidate for office is going to be a pandering lie designed to make the specific audience they are speaking to want to vote for them.

So how did my test results turn out?

Fred Thompson Score: 44
Duncan Hunter Score: 44
John McCain Score: 39
Jim Gilmore Score: 38
Sam Brownback Score: 36
Mitt Romney Score: 35
Ron Paul Score: 32
Tom Tancredo Score: 29
Rudy Giuliani Score: 25
Mike Huckabee Score: 23
Joe Biden Score: 7
Bill Richardson Score: 4
Barack Obama Score: 1
Hillary Clinton Score: 1
John Edwards Score: 1

For a non-scientific test I have to say that I would have to agree pretty much with these results. Is it any wonder that I feel so repulsed and angry every time I see Obama, Edwards or Hillary running their mouths?

But then I am almost as tired of the antique media shoving Rudy and Mitt down my throat as the main conservative candidates. I'm a conservative who has some beliefs that are fairly far right and others that lean slightly left of center. From what I've seen of Mitt's and Rudy's voting records these two men were lucky to score as high as they did on this survey.

Since I don't know what they based this survey on, the candidates voting records or what they have been saying lately, I can't put too much stock in it. But it did raise two questions for me ask: "Who the hell is Jim Gilmore?" and "Why didn't the survey ask about gun ownership?" Oh right! I forgot, this was put together by Public Radio...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

El Tejon VB Tournament

Last year I took my 8th grade team to the El Tejon Volleyball Tournament that is held at ElTejon High School in Lebec, CA. We had fun, finished in fourth place and decided to give that tournament a shot again this year.

The tournament started at nine in the morning and the director was kind enough to schedule out first pool play game for around 10:30 so we didn't need to leave so early in the morning. (Its about a 2 hr and 15 minute drive for us)

We ended up in a pretty tough pool. When the pool play was over we were in third place out of five teams. The top four got to play in the brackets that afternoon.

We started the day playing the eventual 4th place finishers in our pool. We jumped out to an early lead and managed to hold on to finish the game 25-18. Our second game was against the eventual 2nd place finisher in our pool. In all honesty this team was better than mine. They controlled their emotions better when the game was close. My team was playing well but in the little things the other team was better. They ran a more consistent offense and their defense was moving better.

Our third game was against the eventual 5th place team in the pool. We didn't play well, committing more hitting errors than kills but still managed to win 25-15. Our fourth pool play game was against the thus far undefeated, and eventual pool winner. This was also our best game of the day. This team had two large hitters who had pretty good serves to go along with their front row attacks. Their defense was quick and covered the court well. My team started out a little slow. Then they got panicky when the other team started scoring and they were not able to answer. I used my only timeout of the game when we were down 4 to 12. I managed to get my team to relax a little. When the game started again we gave up 2 more quick points and then things turned around. Then over the next several minutes I got to watch my team play the best volleyball I have ever seen these girls play. Unfortunately the streak of great volleyball came to an end with the game tied at 24-24. We got caught when a mishandled serve came flying back at the net, clipped the tape at the top and dribbled over onto our side of the court. In a normal game we would have a chance to get that point back, but the tournament rules were games to 25, cap at 25. It was not necessary to win by 2 points.

The eventual pool winner ended up beating us and the second place team both by scores of 25-24. Like I said it was a tough pool. We came within one point of a three way tie for first, but in the end settled for third place.

In the quarterfinals we played against the number 2 seed from the other pool. That pool must have been a pretty weak pool, as my team didn't play well, but we still managed a 30 to 20 win. (bracket play in this tournament was one game to 30 with a cap at 30)

In the semifinals we had to play the winner from our pool. The team we had lost to 24-25 just an hour earlier. We didn't give them a 10 point lead in this game. Instead we managed to stay with them for the entire game, but it was a roller coaster ride. They would get a 3 or 4 point lead and then we would get one. Then they would get a lead and we would have to take it back. Unfortunately the game ended with us on the short end of 30 - 28 loss.

My teams emotions were all over the chart. They were sad about losing, but at the same time thrilled that they had played two really good games against a really good team. Then as we were picking up our stuff to head home they announced that there was a third place game to be played between the two semifinal losers. (this game was not on the schedule) So we had to jump right back on the court and play another game against the second team place team from our pool.

In retrospect I wish we had never played that last game. I would have rather taken my girls home after that close loss in the semis than have to sit there on the sidelines and watch what happened in the consolation game. We exchanged points for a couple rallys then my team just lost all their focus. I called a time out once we were down about 5 points. But it didn't help. My girls still kept playing, but they had no focus or drive. We committed just about every error you can imagine. Eight missed serves in a row. Spikes that went long, wide right, wide left, and into the net. Passes that went out of bounds left, right, under the net, and into the backs of our teammates. That game ended with us on the very wrong end of a 13-30 walloping. I'm sure it was less fun for my girls to play than it was for me to watch. I hated it.

Saturday morning I watched my girls put on the best demonstration of how to never give up when they pulled off a huge comeback that almost became a fantastic win. Then a couple hours later I watched them completely self destruct. I think this group of six girls has the potential to be the best team I have ever coached in my admittedly limited five years experience. I just have to keep them motivated so that they don't turn into the worst team. Because as I saw Saturday, they can play both ways.

I'm very proud as their coach with the way my team handled themselves on Saturday. I am also very proud of the way they played. I just have to figure out what I need to do as their coach to keep them out of situations like that last game.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The New Bearscast

Last year in a posting about the podcasts I like to listen to I mentioned the Bearscast. At the time I was very disillusioned about this podcast. But since it was only one of two podcasts that I could find about the Bears and the other one, Johnny James's podcast on My Sports radio used so many sound bumpers that they become annoying, I kept listening. But when the Superbowl came and went and there were no new Bearscasts. Then the draft came and went with no new Bearscasts I decided to punt. So I waited for the first episode of the new season and decided that if I tune into it and hear those same clowns, I was going to delete the Bearscast from my listening schedule.

When I finally got a new Bearscast episode I steeled myself for another sophomoric assault on my hearing. But when I tuned in I discovered that the Chicago Sports Network had replaced the hosts of this podcast with a couple other guys, Herman Coats and Gabe Dixon. The difference is amazing. There was no more annoying rap music playing in the background. There was no more people talking in the background. No more silly little boys blasting out my eardrums by giggling at their own jokes. And best of all - Gabe and Herman and their guests actually talk about the Chicago Bears football team.

Kudos to this change. The Bearscast podcast is enjoyable again. Granted the audio quality isn't the greatest. They could use a little better equipment or maybe some training on how to use what they have. But this podcast is back on my ipod and I'm looking forward to each new episode.

Now if the Bears would actually start playing like a superbowl caliber team again so the guys could start talking about good things instead of just how many turnovers Rex the Wonderdog commits.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How to Ice a Server

The other day I wrote about my eighth grade volleyball team who got on a roll in a game when one player served 15 service aces in a row. When my players were a little concerned about how upset their opponents were I told them that what happened to that team wasn't their fault but the opposing coach's.

So what should a coach do when his team is getting pounded by a tough server?

Anything, everything except sitting there and watching his players get pounded.

Most games a coach has two time outs he can use. Calling a time out to try and stop a service run is called icing a server. The idea is to make the server wait in order to throw them off their rhythm. At the middle school level this is a very effective strategy. However most players at the high school level are used to this strategy and it isn't as effective. But you never know until you try. I always stress to my players during practice that the most important thing they have to do after our opponents take a timeout is to get their next serve in. It doesn't have to be an ace or a power serve. It just has to be a good serve. My players seem to like the idea that when the opposing coach calls a time out to ice them that they are now playing one on one with that coach, and if they get that next serve in, they just made that coach waste his timeout.

If he has substitutes available the coach should use them. Sometimes you just have to get a player off the court or out of a bad situation. If the player you replace them with is not as good a player, you can always sub them back around again later. Maybe your replacements aren't quite as good passers as the players on the court. But if the players on the court are getting toasted you need to make some kind of change. You may be surprised how many rocket serves a weaker player, who wants nothing more than to get off that bench, will step in front of until they manage to pull off that one pass you need to stop that hot server. If you find a player like that, immediately start training her to be your libero. I was watching a 14 and under club match earlier this year when a coach was in the situation where their opponents were on a 5 point service ace streak. He pulled two of his back row players and put in two smaller, obviously younger, players to replace them. For the next four serves one of those little girls jumped in front of serves that hit her in the hands, chest, face and shoulder. She failed to get any of those serves passed into the air. But each time she brushed a few loose strands of hair out of her face, wiped away a tear or two away and got ready to do it again. The coach pulled her and put one of the original players back in. When this little player got to the sidelines she paused in front of the coach with her head hanging and all he did was point to the end of the bench and ignored her. I had to leave then and didn't see how the game played out. But I really hope it eventually occurred to that coach that the little girl he so casually dismissed displayed more heart and guts on the court than any of the other players on his team.

A coach can try to find a new or different way to encourage his players or to distract his opponents. There are a lot of different ways to ice a server. Some of them I disagree with and will never use. But there are many options.

In the exceptable category (in my opinion): You can talk to your team. Correct their alignment on the court. Verbally encourage them. Bribe them, I once heard a coach yell to his team "Whoever makes this next pass doesn't have to run laps tomorrow." - it worked. Distract the opponents server. This one is kind of tricky because you need to distract the server without singling her out, without being a bad sport and without looking like you are trying to distract your opponents.

In a game on Thursday, my seventh grade team got caught by a good server who was getting into a hard overhand service streak. After three straight aces, my team managed to finally get a serve up into the air. Our setter passed the ball high towards her outside hitter who proceeded to pound the ball so hard that it flew out of bounds through the open doors and into the foyer behind our opponents. I sat calmly until our opponents finished cheering their latest point and had quieted down a bit. When the server had the ball back in her hands and the referee reached for her whistle to signal the server to serve I called out loud enough for the whole gym to hear "Ashley, you have to keep your spikes inside the building."

Immediately most of the parents in the gym chuckled. Many of the kids on the court laughed out loud. I don't know if they were laughing at my comment or how embarrassed my hitter looked about what I said. Either way, when the referee blew the whistle our opponent's server was still laughing and had a big grin on her face as she started her serve. That smile disappeared the moment the ball flew into the net.

I was able to distract that server by getting her to think about something other than what she was supposed to be thinking about, which was serving the volleyball. Best of all I didn't even need to take a time out to do so.

As my team rotated I did have to step up to the sidelines and share a few quick words with my hitter so that she knew my intent was not to embarrass her but to distract the server.

In the unacceptable category are things you can do that are outside the rules, or the spirit of the rules of volleyball and good sportsmanship.

Last year we were playing in a tournament in Bakersfield. The division that my team was in had a local team from the host school in it. I hadn't been watching her games but I heard other coaches complaining about her unofficial timeouts. This coach would suddenly take an unofficial timeout in order to handle some sort of tournament management. Things like directing people away from the courts, picking up water bottles that may get in the way, etc. But she only had to do these things when her opponents were in the middle of a hot service streak.

When we met this team in the division finals she stopped play once after one of my players had three aces to have the director wipe up a red spot on the floor that might have been blood. I had seen that spot on the floor several times during that day. But it only became an issue when she needed an extra timeout. Then one of the other host school teams from a different division all moved into the gym to watch our match from behind our service area. These players started verbally cheering their teams on. Then progressed into verbally harassing my players while they were serving. I used a timeout to talk to my players about ignoring them and to ask the viewing players to move aside and make room for my players to serve. A couple rotations later we got into another hot service ace streak. Suddenly after 4 aces in a row the opposing coach needed a stoppage of play while she came over to our side of the net and shooed those other players away so that they would not distract my players. I asked the ref if she was using her timeout for this since those players were not disturbing my players. The ref said no, she is just doing her job as one of the tournament hosts.

Fortunately this type of server distraction usually requires the assistance of a willing referee. And you usually don't find that type of cooperation between a ref and a coach.

But I use this as an example of improper gamesmanship. In all sports and at all levels there is some gamesmanship that goes on. In volleyball icing a server is one of the most obvious gamesmanship situations. But if you are thinking of starting to break the spirit of the rules, or starting to invent situations you can use to give you an advantage over the other team perhaps you are crossing a line you shouldn't. The rules of the game allow you two timeouts. If you chose to use them to ice a server, then more power to you. Good sportsmanship says you should not directly yell something at your opponents that is going to distract them. I took a big chance yelling what I did at my hitter. What if instead of the opposing team's server laughing my hitter got really self conscious and stopped swinging at sets? I used a ploy that very easily could have backfired on me. Fortunately for me, my hitter is a pretty smart kid who immediately saw the effect my comment had on our opponents and didn't take it personally.

So when you are trying to deal with a hot server, stick to timeouts and substitutions there is usually no penalty in them other than sometimes they don't work. But then what you were doing before wasn't working either so you really aren't out anything. But most of all do something. Don't just sit and watch your team go down in flames under an assult by a good server.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Volleyball Season (Cont)

I started the afternoon with a practice for just my eighth grade team. After yesterday's game I wanted to have a talk with my players. I have let them have team meetings before where I was not involved. And we have had 'meetings' before with me pretty much doing all the talking. So I tried a different approach today. When they were playing around before practice started I sat down on the floor and called them to gather around. I don't know if it was the fact that I am not much taller than them when sitting down or the circle we were all sitting in, or what. But when I asked them for opinions today - they talked. In full complete sentences and ideas. Not just the single word answers I usually get from them when I ask questions.

I started out by asking what they thought of the games yesterday. While the comments varied they were all pretty pleased with the way things turned out. Then I asked them what they thought about how our opponents may have felt yesterday. They all agreed that they thought our opponents were either embarrassed or upset at the results of the game. Then I asked the setter who had served the 15 consecutive aces if she thought she should have done anything different yesterday. She hesitated for a moment and then replied in a very unsure of herself manner "Backed off my serves?"

When I asked the rest of the team if they thought she should have backed off her serves her teammates were not sure. Then I asked my server what usually happens when she "backs off her serves?" She answered without hesitation "I miss."

That is when I told them that what they had done in that game was absolutely the correct things to do and exactly the way I want them to continue to play. They told me they were releaved to hear this. They were worried that they had done something wrong with the conflicting directions they were getting from me and my assistant coach and then me having a team meeting first thing this afternoon.

So I reassured them again that they had played a wonderful game and that I was very proud of them. Then I explained that happened to their opponents yesterday was not their fault. What happened to those four little girls was the fault of their coach. It was his responsibility to teach them how to receive serves. It was also his responsibility to try and stop our serving streak. He had two time outs he could have used. He had four substitute players sitting next to him on the bench he could have used. He chose to sit there and do nothing while we served 15 aces in a row on his team. Our job was to serve the best we could. Their job was to receive and play those serves. We did our job, he didn't do his.

Then we discussed our warmups and practices. I gave them the opportunity to decide what we should work on next and they all chose serve receive. I'm starting to think that maybe this group may just be starting to get how hard you have to work to be good at this game.

After my 8th grade practice I had to coach my 6th grade team's first game. Getting those girls all together and ready to play was a lot like herding cats. Everytime I would stop talking at least two of them would take off. They were all just bouncing off the walls with excitement. But once the game started they settled down pretty well. They stuggled a little with the 4-2 offense we are running. My setters got out of position a couple times but we got those bugs worked out without too much trouble. The 7th grade team we were playing had a couple really tall girls on their roster but they really didn't play well. My five sixth graders and 2 fifth graders played a really good game for such young players. In the end we won the first game 25-15 and the second one 25-11.

After the 6th grade game my 7th grade had another game but I was unable to stick around for it. I had to attend a parents meeting at the high school for the volleyball team. So my assistant coach handled that game. She is a really good coach so I know my girls were in good hands. But it is killing me not knowing how they did. I guess I will find out at tomorrow's practice.

New Volleyball Season

My middle school volleyball season started four weeks ago when we started practicing. The season as far as games are concerned started yesterday for my 7th and 8th grade teams. My 6th grade team plays their first game today.

Our first game on tap yesterday was my 7th grade team. They were playing a team from Monroe Middle School. My players were nervous, excited and in a couple cases maybe even scared. I tried to calm them down before the game started but when the whistle blew they were still fidgeting on the court. The game stayed pretty close at the start but by the third rotation I had a player crank out four service aces and from that point my team never looked back.

It was a little stressful at the beginning. When the game was ready to start I was just taking my seat on the bench when my assistant coach started yelling corrections at the players to move their positions around on the court. She pretty much kept this up the whole game. I was going to try and keep the game pretty low key for two reasons. First, my players were nervous about the new season starting. I was going to let a lot of things go to let the players get comfortable on the court before I started changing things up on them. Secondly, I don’t believe in doing a lot of coaching from the bench. Players aren’t going to learn much during the game. My job, once that whistle blows is to be the head cheerleader, and to step in as coach if they get into trouble or start making big mistakes.

What really impressed me about my 7th grade team is the two 5th graders that were playing with them yesterday. In the first game one of those 5th grade players served 4 service aces in a row. In the second game the other 5th grader duplicated that feat.

The seventh grade won the first game 25-14 with nine service aces. They won the second game 25-21 but had 13 service aces in that game. In the second game they actually ran four pass-set-spike combinations with one of my 5th grade players actually scoring a kill on one of those rallies.

Immediately after the 7th grade game was our first 8th grade game. I was surprised at how nervous my 8th grade players were. This is their third year of playing volleyball together but they were acting like 6th graders who have never been on a court together before.

However once the game started they seemed to settle down to business. They were playing the team from Immanuel Christian School. Immanuel’s team suffered a setback this year when their coach moved on. They managed to get 10 girls to sign up for volleyball so their eighth grade team is a combination of 6th, 7th and 8th grade players.

I thought the first game was a good start for the new year. My 8th grade team won the game 25-15 behind 11 service aces and 6 kills. They managed to put together 10 three hit pass-set-spike combinations and scored kills with 6 of them. My starting setter, who led off the second rotation fired off 5 service aces in a row which I thought, was a good performance.

The second game was a mixed bag. We won the game easily. However it may have been too easy. When my other setter rotated into the serving spot as the fourth server in the rotation the score was 8 to 5 and I was looking for a couple good overhand serves out of her. 15 consecutive service aces later the score was 23-5 and it was really quiet in the gym. Our fans had stopped cheering about five serves earlier. The rest of my team was standing around flatfooted looking bored. My server was looking at me wondering what to do. My assistant coach was yelling at her to serve to the front row. The opposing coach was shooting daggers at me with his eyes. The opposing team’s fans were glaring at me like I was Satan incarnate. The four opposing players in the number 3, 4, 5 and 6 positions on the court were standing flat footed with their shoulder slumped, their head’s bowed and I think two of them were quickly losing a war with tears. Meanwhile I was telling my server to “just keep serving.”

She hesitated for a moment then decided to listen to the assistant coach and tried to serve to our opponents’ front row and failed – net serve. We turned the ball over to our opponents who served out of bounds. My next server calmly walked to the service spot and fired one last overhand service ace. Game over, 25-6.

I gathered my team up, yelled a cheer for our opponents they lined up to shake their hands. The other team looked and acted beaten, my team looked guilty. I love that about my girls. They have the empathy and caring to feel for their opponents like that. But as a coach I needed to make them understand that what happened in that game was not their fault. I gathered them into a circle ready to start talking when one of them asked “Do we have time to play another game?”

Caught off guard I paused for a moment to look at my watch. In that moment the rest of the team jumped on the band wagon and asked to play another game. So I sent them under the net to ask their opponents if they wanted to play another game while I checked to see if the match that was to follow ours was ready to take the court. They were not.

When I looked across the net I saw my 6 players begging their opponents to play another game. Their coach was shaking his head no, but all his players were nodding yes. So when the coach walked away both teams moved back onto the court. Since the referee and scorekeeper had walked away my girls asked me who was going to do those duties. I replied “No one, just play.”

I told my girls to set their own alignment and setters. Then I tossed the ball to the opposing team’s server and told her to serve whenever she was ready then I walked away also.

I don’t know how that game went. I didn’t watch. But 10 minutes later when the next match’s teams were ready to warm up the 12 girls on the court seemed to all be having fun. I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes the best cure for what ails girls this age is to let them just be kids and play for a while. After all, that is why these kids are there – to play volleyball.

I still need to have a talk to my players this afternoon about not letting up, and putting away an opponent. But I’m not sure what all I’m going to say yet. I have a lot of different things running through my head. I did get some advice from the assistant varsity coach at the high school last night. He told me that when my team gets a big lead like that and I have a hot server up, never tell her to back off, instead, give her signs of where to serve. He said I should take the responsibility for where she is serving and not leave it up to her. I was thinking along those lines already but it was good to hear it from another coach with more experience than I have. Now I have to find the right words to convince my players that what happened to their opponents was not their fault and that they shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I want them to be a tough team who can put away an opponent quickly. But I don’t want them to lose their compassion and caring natures either.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

25 Things A Man Should Know

Popular Mechanics published this list:

25 Skills Every Man Should Know:

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network

Personally I think this list is mostly crap. I used to think Popular Mechanics was an interesting magazine. But if Popular Mechanics thinks this is the definitive list of things a man needs to know how to do they need to strap on their waterskis, put on their leather jacket and get ready to jump that shark.

Does every man really need to know how to protect a computer, retouch digital photos, back up data, hook up an HDTV and extend a wireless network. These tasks are what many men have teenage kids for. Granted some men love doing these tasks. But I know several well rounded men's men who don't have a clue how to use, set up or maintain a computer and their lives are complete and happy without this knowledge. These just are not skills that many men (or women) will need in their lives. In many cases many families will find that they only need one family member who can do these things.

Some men have their own way of doing some of these things:

2. Protect your computer. Men will protect their computer the same way they protect the rest of their stuff - by shooting anyone who tries to take it.

5. Retouch digital photos. Why retouch a photo when you can just cut that lying bitch's face out of it.

16. Back up data. Can't be any tougher than backing up a trailer (see no. 6). Again this is the teenager's job.

21. Hook up an HDTV. If you have trouble connecting an HDMI cable between the output of the receiver and the input of the TV then you need to hire a nanny and never leave the house without her.

25. Extend your wireless network. If your wireless network isn't large enough maybe you should stop surfing the net while mowing your lawn.

If you want a shorter more succinct list you should check out the list of required knowledge for men over at Sippican Cottage:

Sippican's List Of Everything A Man Should Know:

1. Know how to do whatever the hell you feel like doing
2. Learn how to take your lumps for doing #1

Personally I have always liked Robert A. Heinlein's list of skills a man needs in his stories about Lazarus Long:

A man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. - Lazarus Long

That quote has pretty much summed up a lot of what I think a man should know how to do. But there are a few things that I would have added to the list. So here is the list that I hope I manage to teach my son before he gets too old to listen to me anymore. There are not a lot of specifics here. Every man will have different likes, desires, and interests so I tend to avoid specifics like know how to build a house or rebuild an engine. I love building things, but I pay someone to fix my car. Beyond regular maintenance I just have no interest in car repair.

Every man should know:

1. How to buy quality stuff and then take care if it so it lasts.
2. How to maintain your car - oil, filter, plugs, lube, etc.
3. How to change a tire.
4. When and how to shoot, clean, maintain and assemble firearms.
5. How to kill it, clean it, cook it and eat it.
6. How to talk to children.
7. How to talk to women.
8. How to earn a living and live within the means that living provides.
9. How to set up, use, clean, sharpen and maintain power and hand tools.
10. How to repair or replace things that break around your house.
11. How and why you should be on time.
12. How to hold, feed and change a baby.
13. How to wait patiently for the women in your life.
14. To put the needs of your family ahead of your own wants.
15. When and how to take a stand and which battles are worth fighting and which battles are OK to lose.
16. To have faith.
17. That acting macho doesn't make you a man. (Also known as the "If you have to tell people you are a man, you aren't." rule)
18. How and when to make commitments and to keep them.
19. That you become a man by being a loving husband, a good dad and a trusted friend.
20. How and why you do the right thing, even if no one is looking and no one will ever know.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sports Editor or Football Editor?

The following is a copy of a letter I just sent to the local paper. I'm not holding my breath waiting for a reply.


Mr. Barrera,

During a quick perusal of the Friday Daily Indpendent I found on the front page two advertisements for tonights BHS away football game. Then once I got to the sports section I found eight pages of sports coverage. As a sports fan I think this level of coverage is great. Except, those 8 pages consisted of 4 and a quarter pages of local football, one and a quarter pages of NFL football, a full page of Cal Berkley college football and a full page of NASCAR coverage. That left only one half a page for all the other sports. That space was split between two articles - one on Major League Baseball and one article on the BHS tennis team. Over half the coverage of the local high school football programs were about games that haven't even been played yet. The four and a quarter pages of football coverage consisted of four articles all written by you, the DI Sports Editor. There were also 11 photographs most of which are supplied by you or just listed as "contributed."

Mr. Barrera, I think it is time for you to get out of the football stadiums and start covering all the sports being played in the Indian Wells Valley. We don't need pages of coverage of football games that haven't been played yet when there are so many other sporting events being competed by our local youth. There has been no mention that the BHS volleyball team freshmen lost a close match to Kern Valley High School JV team on Wednesday, or that the BHS Varsity Volleyball team beat Kern Valley High School Varsity team 3-1. Do you know that Thursday evening the BHS JV and Varsity volleyball teams also won matches against Rosamond High School to continue their undefeated seasons? Are you aware that the five local middle school's have 18 girls volleyball teams that have been practicing for weeks and will start competition with each other next Monday? What about tennis, cross country, golf and all the other club and independent youth sports being playing in our area?

Mr. Barrera its time to get out of the football stadium and start reporting all the sports being played in town. There are many fine young athletes in this valley who are pouring their hearts and souls into the games they love to play and its time to stop ignoring them or pretending they are not as important as football. I understand that sometimes you need to rely on submissions from the organizers of these other athletics events for your information. Additionally, BHS has made tracking other sports events more difficult by removing any mention of sports other than boys soccer, basketball and football from the athletics section of their website. But since you were able to generate over four pages of news about football surely you could generate a little coverage of some of the other local sports. After all you are the Sports Editor, not the Football Editor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years


It has been six years since the United States finally woke up and started fighting back in the Global War on Terror. We had been attacked repeatedly for over 25 years but it took the attacks on the city of New York six years ago to finally move our nation to action.

Today I wanted to say some words in remembrance of those who lost their lives six years ago today. But those feelings have been overwhelmed by the disgust I feel daily when I hear or read about the political posturing by our elected officials who have either decided that we have fought enough and it's now time to surrender or are willing to sell out our nation for the votes of the ignorant radicals who don't think we should have fought back at all.

I know putting pictures of those burning towers on my blog isn't going to change anyone's mind. But I think the antique media has done this nation a huge disservice by removing all images and videos of these attacks from our lives. This is not an act to forget or to hide from. These six year old images are why we are fighting a global war on terror now.

So what am I doing today to honor the lives lost six years ago today? I'm going to work where I can continue my part in development of naval weaponry. I going to continue supporting the military that we have tasked to fight this war for us. I am going to continue to support and vote for politicians who understand that this war must be fought. I am going to enjoy the freedom that my family enjoys daily. Finally I am not going to forget this attack nor the battles we have fought, and those yet to come, as the United States continues to lead the world in a battle against terrorism.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nerd God

NerdTests.com says I'm a Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

I got the link for this from Denny.

Is it wrong that I'm proud of this? Or does that just confirm the results?


Sometime yesterday the Ridgecrest Blog had it's 25,000th hit. That to me is an incredible number. Now I know that there are blogs out there that get more hits than that a day. Heck some may even get that many an hour. But it is scary to think that I have had 25,000 attempts to bore the living crap out of people. I'm really starting to worry about you.

Seriously when I started this I figured I would ramble on for a few weeks, get a few complaints off my chest then get bored with it and quit. Now it is been almost 2 and half years and 25,000 hits later and I'm still rambling and rambling.

My small (less than 10 per day) regular readers may have noticed that my posting has been sporadic at best lately. It's not that I have nothing to write about. It's just that I keep running out of time to write. I suppose that I could make some time in my schedule if I didn't hang around and watch my daughter's volleyball practices. But I really like watching her practice. Like I told one other parent. "This is more entertaining than anything that is on television."

So if you check things out here and I haven't written anything for a couple days. Its because I'm working hard to be a good Dad or a good volleyball coach. I'll get back to you, I promise.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The End of an Era

About 11 years ago when my youngest daughter was turning four years old my dear wife and I decided that she would need a jungle gym and a swing set in the back yard. Now any normal parents would shop around for a while and pick out a set that they liked, buy it, set it up and watch their kid fall off it and hurt themselves.

Well that method wasn't good enough for us. After all if my kid is going to fall off a jungle gym and hurt herself I wanted her to do it right. Since most home jungle gyms are only about 6 to 8 feet high that didn't seem good enough to me.

Another factor that entered into some of the decisions I made were my childhood. When I was a kid I was always building forts. One day my father backed his truck into the log pile out back of the house one day and the entire pile collapsed into the fort the neighbor boy and I had built in the middle of the log pile. Dad was very relieved that neither of us were actually in the fort at the time it collapsed. But he told me that he would build us a fort in the backyard if I would stop building my own in odd places.

So Dad sunk four poles into the back yard then he built on top of them a 4 by 8 foot by 6 foot high fort that sat about 8 feet off the ground. It had a trap door and rope ladder, and real windows that would open and close. My sisters and I practically lived in that fort. So I wanted something at least as fun for my kids.

So I started acting like an engineer and let my imagination run a little wild. Then I ran down south to Home Depot and came home with a truck load of lumber, cement and other stuff. Then I started building. I didn't really have any plans, just a plot diagram so I knew that my insane idea would fit in the side yard where it was intended to fit.

If you give an engineer who likes woodworking and wants to out Dad his Dad two months, three truck loads of supplies from Home Depot, and four paint colors picked out by an almost four year old and this is what grows in your back yard.


Shortly after this picture was taken I added a sun shade to the top of the large tower and a climbing rope to the swing set. The front tower is 8 ft x 8 ft and 15 ft high at the top of the railing. You enter it from the ladder on the underside. It is connected by an aerial 'tunnel' to the smaller tower. This one is only 5 ft x 5 ft. It has a sunshade top, and a curvey slide. The center of the main tower has some intermediate levels and dividers so, to get to the top of the main tower requires climbing up 3 ladder segments, navigating 6 turns, and opening the trap door at the top.

When the twins were about 2 I added a 50 ft. zip line from the main tower to an anchor on the other side of the yard. That zip line was the biggest attraction at my kid's birthday parties.

When I first finished building this monstrosity our next door neighbor was horrified. She thought it was the ugliest thing she had ever seen. Her husband loved it. But he was relieved that it was my daughter and not me who picked out the colors.

Well this evening my son and I started taking down the jungle gym. We had hemmed and hawed about this for quite a while. The kids were all emotionally attached to the jungle gym even though they rarely ever play on it any more.

In the jungle gym's place is going a new above ground swimming pool. My wife grew up in a house with a pool. I didn't. I always wanted one as a kid. As an adult I never really cared. I just didn't want to bother with the maintenance. But the kids don't use the jungle gym much anymore, and it was getting so it needed a lot of maintenance as well as a new coat of paint. We just couldn't see putting in the time, energy and money to fix up something that the kids were all outgrowing.

When we get the jungle gym removed and the pool installed I'll post a picture so you can see the new side yard.

So an era for our family ended this evening. Our little kids have out grown their jungle gym and swing set. They are excited about the new pool. Their parents are kind of depressed that our babies are growing up.