Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Unwired Minority

I am one of the unwired minority.

According to CTIA, which tracks wireless use internationally, about 233 million people in the United States have cell-phone service. That is more than 76% of the U.S. population.

I guess that puts me in the 24% minority. I do not have a cell phone. I do not want a cell phone. If you gave me one today it would probably spend most of its life turned off and laying on my dresser half buried in a hand full of loose change.

Sure I recognize that cell phones may occasionally be useful. But I don’t feel the annoyances of being available to any and everyone 24 hours a day is worth the occasional convenience. I submitted to pressure from my dear wife a couple years ago and got her a cell phone. Since she drives to a remote location for work each day I felt it was a good investment. Mostly because it makes her feel better to know that she can call for help if she needs it. Two years later, we added a cell phone for our daughter when she started high school. But I refuse to join the pack.

I cannot begin to describe the looks of shock or astonishment I get from people when they ask me what my cell phone number is and I tell them “I don’t have one.” I actually had a receptionist at a doctor’s office tell me “No really, I need your cell number in case we need to contact you” I looked her straight in the eyes and said, slowly and as clearly as possible “I. Do. Not. Own. A. Cell. Phone. You may leave a message for me at either my home or work number.”

I have tried carrying a cell phone. Last month while my daughter was busy at her volleyball camp in Laramie, WY for 12 hours a day I carried around her cell phone. This was because my dear wife and the twins were vacationing in the Black Hills with my Dad. My dear wife wanted a way to get a hold of me if she needed to. So for 6 days I carried around an electronic leash. I only got about 3 to 4 calls a day. Most of them from the friends my daughter and I were staying with. But I swear that stupid phone has a processor in it that would tell it to hold all my calls until I was busy, then it would ring. I could sit around watching the different coaches and drills at the volleyball camp for hours without being disturbed. But let me start a conversation with someone, go to the bathroom, start driving the car or start eating and that stupid phone would ring every single time.

Most of these calls were useful; it was just that their timing was bad. Especially the morning I discovered that the battery had died in the van. I called my friend who had already gone to work and asked if they would mind running home and taking my daughter to camp so she would not be late. Then I would deal with the non-running van. While waiting for him to get back to the house to pick my daughter up I found a battery charger in his garage. I was hooking the battery charger up to the van battery, which was tucked into a corner of the engine compartment where it was hard to reach. As I carefully reached past the one terminal of the battery to connect the charger to the hard to reach rear terminal I was thinking to myself “don’t let you arm touch both terminals at the same time.” I was worried that the van not starting was not the battery but the starter and I didn’t want to short the battery with my arm. So just as I get my arm twisted back in on top of the battery, the phone which was in my front pocket, and set on vibrate – rings. Or rather, starts vibrating. This is the exact sensation that I was trying to avoid by concentrating on not touching both terminals of that battery at the same time. I dropped both connectors of the battery charger and jumped back away from the van, banging my knuckles on the edge of the engine compartment, all the while verifying for my teenage daughter that her old man is very familiar with many words that she hears other kids use at school. It wasn’t until the phone rang (?) a second time that I figured out what was going on.

The worst part of this experience was that the call was from my friend who was only three blocks away. He wanted to tell me that he was bring his van home and would leave it with me so that I could use it until I got ours running again. This was a very kind, generous thing for his family to do. But did he really have to call me and tell me that, just 60 seconds before arriving there in person?

My experiences with a cell phone that week helped cement my opinions of cell phones that I had formed while watching my daughter’s volleyball teammates and their cell phones over the last year. I do not want to carry around anything in my pocket that is going to create a psychological need to play with it. I have enough troubles with my addictions to television, the internet, volleyball, books, candy, pizza and soda pop. I don’t need another obsession right now.

That is what I see many people’s cell phones as – an obsession. One volleyball player on the high school team at every water or rest break during practices rushes to the sidelines and grabs her water bottle in one hand and her cell phone with the other. She opens the phone, looks at it, the closes it and sets it back down again. The other day when she did this she glanced my way as she laid the phone down and I guess my rolling eyes and shaking head led her to think I was disapproving of her habit. So she told me “I’m just checking the time.” I kept my face and voice as bland as possible and replied by pointing at the large clock on the wall and saying “6:45.”

Several other players on the team can’t get through a practice without text messaging someone. I have never been able to figure out what is so important that it couldn’t wait until practice is over. Don’t even get me started on the whole text messaging thing. It’s a telephone people – you are supposed to talk over them.

Last season there was actually one player on the club team who took her phone back onto the court with her so she could finish her text message as the practice commenced. Her coach was not amused.

I watch so many cell phone users who seem completely incapable of living their lives without the phone in their hands or fastened to their ear. Count me out. I prefer to remain unfettered, for now. Maybe some day when the technology arrives that allows the earpiece to be installed directly into my inner ear, the mouth piece directly into my vocal cords, and the phone book integrated into the heads up display that is integrated into my corneal implants that automatically adjusts my vision so that I can see clearly both close up and far away. Then I only have to go into the doctor once a year to get fresh batteries shoved up my……maybe I’m not quite ready for that after all.

Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football is just Dungeon and Dragons for guys who used to beat up guys who played Dungeons and Dragons.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More Elvira Arellano

Elvira Arellano addressed the Mexican Congress yesterday. Of course she couldn't admit that she had done anything wrong. In fact she blamed all her problems on the United States.

The United States is the one who broke the law first by letting people cross over without documents. By letting people pay taxes.

So in Elvira's world she sneaks across our border, twice, steals a social security number so she can get a job, cranks out a kid so she has an excuse to stay here and when she is sent home a second time she blames all her troubles on the United States because we didn't stop her.

I suppose that it hasn't occured to her that the United States did not allow her to cross over without documents. She had to sneak across the border. I'm pretty sure that she didn't just walk up to a border guard and ask to illegally enter our country.

But she may also have a point. We should do a better job of securing our borders. If we stopped more idiots like Elvira Arellano from getting into our country in the first place we wouldn't have to put up with listening to crap like she is spewing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Deportation Protester Deported

The LA Times is reporting that Elvira Arellano has been arrested and deported back to Mexico.

Arellano came to Washington state illegally in 1997. She was deported to Mexico shortly after, but returned and moved to Illinois in 2000, taking a job cleaning planes at O'Hare International Airport.

She was arrested in 2002 at O'Hare and convicted of working under a false Social Security number. She was to surrender to authorities last August.

Instead of surrendering to authorities, she took refuge in the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago.

So she entered this country illegally - twice. Then she committed identity theft in order to get a job. Then refused an official court order to surrender to authorities.

Then people are shocked and angered when she leaves her refuge to speak to reporters at a pro-illegal immigration rally in Los Angeles and she is arrested and deported.

For me the key paragraph in this report is:

"From the time I took sanctuary the possibility has existed that they arrest me in the place and time they want," she said in Spanish. "I only have two choices. I either go to my country, Mexico, or stay and keep fighting. I decided to stay and fight."

Notice that this woman has lived and worked in the United States for most of the last 10 years but still speaks only spanish. Also, she still considers her country to be Mexico. The United States is apparently only a place to "stay and fight".

I know that many folks will call me a heartless bastard for not mentioning or caring that deporting this woman seperated her from her 8 year old kid who is a US citizen.

Sure I feel sorry for the kid. I feel sorry that this kid had a mother who was so stupid as to put her child into a situation where her criminal activity would result in his having to live without her. But this woman is no different from a bank robber, thief (oh, wait, she is a thief) or a embezzler. If you get caught committing crimes in this country our laws say that you should be punished. There is no provision for our laws and the penalties for breaking them should be ignored if you have children. Besides, there is nothing to stop her son from going to Mexico to be with his mother.

Arellano should consider herself lucky that she wasn't prosecuted for breaking our laws. Instead she was simply sent home. If she returns illegally, then I think she should be charged and prosecuted for illegal immigration, identity theft, child endangerment and resisting arrest. And if convicted she should be jailed. Either way, she will be separated from her child. That is the risk she chose when she decided to live the life of a criminal.

Yeah, I feel sorry for the kid. It isn't his fault that his mother made so many bad decisions. But sympathy for the child doesn't excuse the actions of the mother.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How Government Works

Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Congress said someone may steal from it at night, so they created a night watchman position (GS-4) and hired a person for the job.

Then Congress said, "How does the watchman do his job without instruction?" So they created a planning position and hired two people: one person to write the instructions (GS-12) and one person to do time studies (GS-11).

Then Congress said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?" So they created a Q.C. position and hired two people, one GS-9 to do the studies and one GS-11 to write the reports.

Then Congress said, "How are these people going to get paid?" So they created the following positions, a timekeeper (GS-09) and a payroll officer (GS-11) and hired two people.

Then Congress said, "Who will be accountable for all of these people?"

So they created an administrative position and hired three people: an Admin. Officer (GM-13), an Assistant Admin. Officer (GS-13) and a Legal Secretary (GS-08).

Then Congress said, "We have had this command in operation for one year and we are $18,000 over budget, we must cutback overall cost," so they laid off the night watchman.

Yep. This is just about how Congress thinks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dry Eyes

I have needed glasses since I was a sophomore in high school. Actually I probably needed them for several years before then but didn't realize it. From the moment the Doctor put the glasses on my face I hated them. But at the same time I really liked being about to see clearly. My desire to see immediately over threw my vanity and I started wearing my glasses daily.

As time past I found more and more reasons to hate wearing my glasses. But never enough of them to offset my desire to see clearly. I could never understand people who would only wear their glasses when they needed them to drive. I could just not imagine going through the day seeing everything blurry.

But still my hatred for my glasses continued. I hated the way they bounced on my face when I ran. I hated that I could never wear sunglasses. I had to wear dorky looking clip-ons. I hated the way my glasses fogged over when ever I started sweating. Most of all I hated the pain they caused every time I got hit in the head or face while playing sports. Getting hit hurt enough without the added injury of having the frames ground into my face.

I considered contact lenses several time but could never afford them. Eventually I got out of college and became a working engineer. But even as I was struggling through a soccer and volleyball leagues with my glasses it didn't occur to me that I could now afford contacts. I had pretty much forgotten all about them.

Then one day I got my first tax return and I was trying to figure out what to spend it on. That evening, during a soccer practice I attempted to head a ball to a teammate. I miscalculated my jump and ended up hitting the ball too low on my forehead. The subsequent impact drove my glasses so hard onto my nose that they tore the bridge of my nose wide open. It took me almost 20 minutes to get the bleeding to stop.

The next morning I was treating my wounds in the mirror and I suddenly knew what to spend my tax return on. I called that very morning and made an appointment to be fitted for soft contact lenses.

I have been wearing contacts now for 25 years. While they have been higher maintenance and cost than my glasses I have never considered going back to glasses.

Now suddenly my eyes seem to be rejecting my contacts. I have developed dry eye. I am in the process of determining if the contact lenses are causing the problem or something else. Today I saw the Doctor and we rejected the fourth pair of contact lenses that I have tried this summer. This means that I have spent most of the summer wearing my glasses while my eyes recover from the trauma of wearing contacts. This experience has reminded me of everything I have ever hated about wearing my glasses.

Several friends have suggested that I consider Lasik surgery. I have never given it much thought because I was doing so well with contact lenses. But now that may be changing. Since it is looking like I may not be able to wear contacts again I am suddenly becoming very interested in the Lasik procedure. However it will be several weeks before my eyes recover enough to determine if I can have the surgery or not. If my eyes turn out to be too dry it will take several months of treatments to try and get my eyes moisturized enough to try the surgery.

So the result of this is, after wearing my glasses on and off all summer it looks like I will have to wear them most of the fall also. I am really dreading this. Since volleyball starts next week at the middle school I am trying to figure out how I can do my coaching job without getting hit in the face or head with a volleyball. It doesn't happen often. But considering the amount of time I spend out on the court while my middle school girls are hitting volleyballs it is only a matter of time before one of them miss-hits a ball and I get slammed in the face. It has happened several times before, I'm sure it will eventually happen again. I just hope my glasses will survive an assault. They have been soldered together a couple times already and I don't really want to buy a new pair if I'm heading towards getting rid of them forever in the near future.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Discovery Cycling Team to Disband

Back in February the Discovery Channel announced that they would not be sponsoring the Discovery Channel Cycling team after this year. Today the team announced that they would disband at the end of this year. Apparently it is harder to find a sponsor for one of the best cycling teams in professional cycling over the last ten years than I thought it would be.

Citing fractious leadership in the sport, constant doping allegations and the struggles of finding a new sponsor, Armstrong and the owners of his former Discovery Channel team said Friday the squad will disband after this season.

So apparently all the doping allegations has all the big dollar companies in the United States too scared to attach their name to a professional cycling team.

I have a potential solution to this problem. What do you think of a team sponsor who agrees to sponsor the team under this one sole condition:

Every rider on this team will agree to train and compete clean. An rider who tests positive for a banned substance will result in the immediate canceling of the corporation's sponsorship of the team.

In other words, if you cheat - you screw not only yourself but every rider and the entire staff of your team.

Of course this extreme measure would require that the entire cycling program be able to prove that their testing procedures and labs are trustworthy. A situation that I don't believe exists today.

I'm going to miss having an American team in the Tour de France next year. I'll watch anyway, but I'll have to cheer for the individual American riders.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bonds Hits 756

All I have to say about this is:

***** YAWN *****

My grandfather loved baseball. I spent a lot of my weekends traveling around South Dakota in my Grandpa's car. If there was a game being played Grandpa would be listening to it on the radio in his car. I remember one day, he pulled over to the side of the road and we sat there for an hour because he wanted to hear the end of the game and the direction we were traveling was weakening the radio signal. So we sat there in the middle of nowhere, listening to the baseball game end.

Grandpa often took me to home games of the minor league team in town, the Rapid City Chiefs. One summer he took me on a business trip with him to Minneapolis. The highlight of the trip for Grandpa was the Minnesota Twins game we went to. The only thing from that game I remember is Harmon Killebrew hitting two home runs. I remember it because Grandpa went on and on about what a phenomenal performance that was, and that I should remember it because Harmon Killebrew was going to be one of the great players in the game.

A year or two later a couple guys from the Oakland A's were in Rapid City. My grandpa took me to meet them. They signed a baseball for me, then later sent my grandpa a ball signed by the entire A's team. I still have that ball and its signatures including J. Catfish Hunter, Vita Blue, Reggie Jackson, Dick Green and a whole bunch of other guys I never heard of before.

I think my grandpa was always very disappointed that I never learned to love baseball the way he did. But I just never got the hang of the game. I tried playing as a kid but could do nothing right. I didn't understand the rules, the theory of the game nor how to throw, catch or hit. It might have help if I could have had an adult try to teach me those things. But grandpa never tried playing ball with me, he just listened to it, watched it and talked about it. My Dad was only into cars and probably cared less about baseball than I did. My little league coaches and PE teachers didn't teach either. They just sent us out to play.

As I got older and started discovering other sports I just sort of ignored baseball. I would see an occasional headline in the paper. I was pleased to see Harmon Killebrew inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. Its too bad Grandpa didn't live to to see that his prophecy fulfilled.

As I progressed though college and beyond I learned to play football, volleyball, soccer and racquetball. I got into these sports because I had friends who were willing to teach me the rules and how to play the games. I also started running and bicycling. I even ended up playing on a couple softball teams. But I was allowed on them simply because I could run fast and catch. I never did learn how to bat or throw. My cousins used to tease me that I throw like a girl. I wish.... I know lots of girls that I would love to be able to throw as well as they do.

As my love of sports continued to expand my apathy for baseball slowly turned into feelings of disdain. When Bud Selig canceled the world series in 1994 I pretty much completely stopped paying any attention at all to baseball. Any more, baseball is just something that shows up this time of the year on the front page at ESPN's website that I have navigate past to find the sporting news I am looking for.

So when I read this morning that Barry Bonds had broken Hank Aaron's home run record I had mixed feelings. For the most part I couldn't care less. But I was also a little sad. I haven't followed his career closely, but from my limited perspective, Barry Bonds' dramatic increase in size, power and ability to hit home runs at an age when most men are starting to lose strength, speed and power seems almost too good to be true. That coupled with the fact that his personal trainer is doing multiple stints in jail for refusing to talk to a grand jury about Barry's suspected steroid use makes Bonds look guilty as hell.

I have been told a story by a friend who did some computer work for the A's. While trying to make small talk she mentioned Barry Bonds. That is when she learned that Barry is pretty much despised by everyone there because he is apparently a pretentious and arrogant a$$hole.

At first I was tempted to be angry or upset that I guy who I think is a cheat and who others think is an a$$ should be setting records and being lauded by the media and worshiped by little kids. But then it occured to me. Why do I care? I haven't given much more than a moments thought to baseball for over 30 years. So I guess Barry Bonds can use all the 'roids he wants to, his friends can sit in jail protecting him, he can break all the records he wants, and the media can gush all over him all they want. My response (besides this long rambling blog post) is:

***** YAWN *****

I have other things to worry about. I have a job to go to and a volleyball court to repair or improve at the school. I have a patio to lay in the back yard. I also have a bunch of young athletes coming to a volleyball camp this weekend and years from now I don't want them writing about how no one ever taught them how to play volleyball when they were kids. So I have lessons to prepare.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More Secession News

The front page of this mornings paper announces that our illustrious City Council has definitely taken any talk of secession from Kern County off the table.

There is a large contingent of Ridgecrest residents who don't think it should have been on the table in the first place. I received an e-mail the other day from Eric Kauffman a DJ at KQIZ radio station. At first I was just scanning the e-mail thinking that Eric was just another voice who was yelling at everyone to stop talking about things that might upset folks. But then I realized that Eric has a really good point. Eric has given me permission to post his e-mail.

I haven’t been able to read your blog in a while, but we do have a link to it on our web site, KZIQ.COM. I am on the Chamber Board and of course was one of the speakers at Council public comment. I just wanted to make sure that you understood the biggest point that everyone is missing here. It’s not about getting numbers….we’re all for that. It’s not so much about secession, although that was the equivalent of hitting an unaware person with a baseball bat. This is about what we have done to our relationship with the County of Kern. Jon McQuiston has led a pretty charmed life in getting the other Supervisors to vote the IWV’s way on many extra funding issues. Now valuable CDBG (block grants) money is at risk. This money will, a lot of times, go to the Hospital, The Women’s Center, and IWV United Way agencies. There is also a need to extend our deal on the County owned softball fields near Jackson Park, that the city needs a 25 year minimum agreement in order to get state and federal grants. It the County’s presentation it was noted that the market lease value on the fields was $800k a year. Even at half that, it’s more than the city could afford. Our price for many years and up to now has been nothing.

See the problem? We are calling them jerks AND asking them for favors. Politically (and isn’t everything these days?) it is suicide. I have an ongoing problem with the entire council that, not only do they not want to recognize it and fix it, they want to continue to pour gasoline on the fire. Currently the General Plan Advisory Committee (of which I am a member) is tasked with creating a vision for Ridgecrest for the next 20-30 years. Certainly annexation of land outside the city limits is essential to that vision. Our current deal with the County stinks and Supervisor McQuiston had been trying to get the County to re-negotiate that. How can we expect to be treated fairly in those negotiations when our council is acting recklessly like this? The re-negotiation process was already in motion before this started and now has stopped.

The only thing I want (I won’t speak for the Chamber Board here) is for cooler heads to prevail and start working in earnest with the County to get us back on track.

In case you didn't read that with the same eyes I did, Eric's main point is "We are calling them jerks AND asking them for favors." I don't know about you, but I tend to not be very cooperative with folks who expect me to help them out, but ask for that help by threatening me.

So I hope that the city keeps working on understanding fully our relationship with Kern County. I just hope they do so in a calmer, more cooperative manner.