Tuesday, March 27, 2007

End of the Sports Machine

George Michael's Sports Machine a weekly recap sports show that aired at 11:30 PM on Sunday nights has been a weekly routine in my life for over 20 years. The Sports Machine was ESPN before there was an ESPN.

According to USA Today The Sports Machine is going off the air because NBC which financed the show demanded several staff cuts. George Michael said that if there were layoffs he would be the first to go. Which just proves that the classy guy I watch interviewing athletes for over 20 years wasn't just an image cultivated for the show.

I'll miss the sports machine. But mostly I'll miss the "Plays of the month" monthly feature that George did. I always recorded that segment, first on tape and lately on DVD and used it as pregame entertainment for our superbowl parties each year.

The best feature George ever did was a fairwell to Julius Erving. His musical montage of Dr. J's basketball career was a masterpiece. When I showed it to a couple die hard basketball fans it left them in tears. My biggest regret was that he didn't do the same kind of show for Walter Payton when he retired from football. He wanted to, but Walter asked him not to make a fuss about his retirement and being the classy guy George is, he complied.

I know the Sports Machine was just a 30 minute sports highlight show. But my family is going to miss it almost more than me. Because now they have to sit and listen to me prattle on about the good old days when the Sports Machine was on.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Eco-anxiety

The Rutland Herald is reporting:

Melissa Pickett, an eco-therapist with a practice in Santa Fe, sees anywhere from 40 to 80 eco-anxious patients a month. They complain of panic attacks, loss of appetite, irritability and unexplained bouts of weakness, sleeplessness and "buzzing," which they describe as the eerie feeling that their cells are twitching.


So how does one go about becoming an eco-therapist anyway. I don't remember seeing that degree offered in any of the college catalogs I ever looked at. I'm also pretty sure that it wasn't one of the job's that our high school placement tests recommended.

So how do you treat eco-anxiety anyway?

Pickett's remedies include telling patients to carry natural objects, like certain minerals, for a period of weeks. Making environmentally friendly lifestyle changes can also prove therapeutic


Yep that's what I do when feeling anxious about things I don't understand I wear hemp and carry around rocks. It usually doesn't help my anxiety, but the chaffing and sore muscles give me something else to worry about.

So what causes eco-anxiety?

The fears of the eco-anxious are fueled by abundant media coverage of crises like global warming, collapsed fisheries and food shortages. The Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" warns that only 10 years might remain to avert a major environmental catastrophe.


There's your answer folks, the eco-anxious have to stop lugging around rocks and start sueing Al Gore. Afterall anyone diabolical enough to invent the internet probably wouldn't think twice before inventing eco-hysteria.

There is one bit of rational tought mentioned in this article:

Dr. Gavin Schmidt, who studies climate variability at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, is concerned about carbon dioxide emissions unnaturally warming the planet, but he hasn't succumbed to eco-anxiety yet. He attributes the rise in eco-anxiety to a naive public.

"The fact that people don't have a good grasp of how science thinking works," Schmidt said, "means they don't have a good grasp of what they should be skeptical about."


In other words stop listening to the media and Al Gore and start reading and listening to people who study the envirnoment for a living. And don't listen to just one side, listen to both, then use your brain for something other than keeping your head from imploding. Make a calm rational decision on what you should do or worry about.

"There's a scientific reason to be concerned and there's a scientific reason to push for action," Schmidt said, "but there's no scientific reason to despair."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How Modern Liberals Think

A couple weeks ago in a moment of weakness I allowed myself to get into a political discussion with a co-worker. I usually try to avoid discussing politics with co-workers. No good usually comes from such discussions. If we are in agreement, we accomplish nothing because each of us is preaching to the choir. If we disagree then eventually we end up trying to work together on a project while each of us quietly thinks that their coworker is an idiot.

In this case I got into a discussion with a guy who I knew was never going to agree with anything I had to say about politics. He has made his opinions know in the past. He is a full fledged liberal.

The topic of the Patriot Act came up and he made a comment about all the Bush Administration’s illegal wiretapping of American’s telephones. When I challenged his comment he responded “You know as well as I do that all the President wants to do is tap our phones so he can find out who will go along with his politics and who won’t.”

When I scoffed at this comment he told me “Domestic wiretapping is the first step on a slippery slope that will end with loyal Americans being dragged out of their homes and disappearing forever simply because they were careless enough to criticize the President while they were talking on the phone.”

This led me to ask him “Cite one case where an American’s domestic phone call has been tapped under the patriot act.”

He started ranted on about how it is happening every day and if I didn’t believe it then I was na├»ve. Again I asked him to cite me a case. I tried to reason with him that if domestic wire tapping is happening to the degree he claims then it surely will be easy to find a reference to a single lawsuit, or complaint. All he need do to convince me is cite one case. Instead I was accused of being a fool if I didn’t believe that our government was violating our civil rights on a daily basis.

I left this discussion torn between being confounded at the lack of intellectual honesty in his arguments and a deep sense of sympathy for this man. He lives in the most free and prosperous society in the history of the world and yet he lives in terror of oppression by the very government that he works for. To live a world where you only see evil and oppression everywhere you look must truly be an awful life.

This started me thinking about the way liberals think. Unfortunately I had to stop thinking about it because it was making my brain hurt.

I simply cannot comprehend many of the thought that must run through liberal heads. I know several liberals quite well. For the most part they are not evil people. They are hard working, in a couple cases - very spiritual, and honest, trustworthy people. But they all have several common traits:

• Without Exception they all hate George Bush with a passion that is sometimes frightening. I despised Bill Clinton for eight years (ok I still despise him) but I have never once wished him to be dead. I just want him to retire, shut up, and go live in peace somewhere where we don’t have to listen to him anymore.

• They all mistrust the government, yet they hold civil service jobs and will vote for and support any program that will expand the government’s control over their lives.

• They all believe to the depths of their souls that most people are stupid and need to be directed and cared for at all times.

• They do not believe that the average citizen in America has anything to fear from terrorists.

• They all think that the Iraq war has nothing to do with the Global War on Terror and that we should just pack up and pull out immediately regardless of the consquences for the Iraqi people or America.

Well I was thinking about how liberals think again today while reading a news report about Iraq War spending bill passed by the House yesterday. The headline read “House passes bill to get out of Iraq.” No mention of victory, of success, or consequences. Just get out!

Then I found his video:



It’s a little long, about 48 minutes, but well worth listening to. Evan Sayat, who I have never heard of before, has a pretty good idea about what liberals are thinking when they do and say they things they do.

What it boils down to is they aren’t thinking. According to Sayet

“the modern liberal will invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success.”


He claims this is not because they are evil or stupid but because

the modern liberal looks back on the whole of human society and sees that none of the ideas that mankind has ever come up with, none of the religions, none of the philosophies, none of the ideologies, none of the forms of government, none have succeeded in creating a world devoid of war, crime, poverty and injustice. So they are convinced that since all of these ideas of man have proved to be wrong. The real cause of war, crime, poverty and injustice must be found, can only be found in the attempt to be right. See, if nobody ever thought they were right, what would we disagree about? If we didn’t disagree surely we wouldn’t fight. If we didn’t fight of course we wouldn’t go to war. Without war there would be no poverty, without poverty there will be no crime, without crime there will be no injustice, its the utopian vision. And all that is required to usher in this utopia is the rejection of all fact, reason, evidence, logic, truth, morality and decency. All the tools that you and I use in our attempts to be better people and to make the world more right by trying to be right, by siding with right, by recognizing what is right and moving towards it.


Watch this video, it is worth the 48 minutes of your life if for no other reason than it might give you a little insight into why arguing with liberals never seems to accomplish anything other than to make your head hurt.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Presidential Spine

Our Democrate controlled House of Representatives passed a pork bloated Iraq war spending bill that also mandated a time table for troop withdrawl.

In a rare moment that we haven't seen lately our President rediscovered that he has a spine and apparently has decided to share it.

"A narrow majority in the House of Representatives abdicated its responsibility by passing a war spending bill that has no chance of becoming law and brings us no closer to getting the troops the resoures they need to do their job," the president said. "These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen."


Now if George would only take this strong a stance on keeping his tax breaks, securing our borders and letting the country know that he is not Nancy Pelosi's lap dog...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bomb Threats Day 3

I guess all the schools in town wanted to get in on the bomb threat game. Today it was Monroe Middle School that had to evacuate. I'm starting to think that stupidity is contagious around here.

The Ridgecrest Police announced that they have arrested a suspect in the tuesday threat at Burroughs High School and since they apparently have a confession also I guess the kid really isn't a suspect anymore. The local authorities have not decided exactly what the 17 year old will be charged with but they think the charges will be substantial.

Hopefully this insanity will settle down now that both public middle schools and the high school have had their turn. I really hope the trend doesn't extend to the private schools in town.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Banned in China

My tiny little part of the blogosphere has hit the big time. I have been banned in China. I don't know what my little site has done to earn the animosity of Communist China but if they don't want their people to read what I write, I must be doing something right. After all we wouldn't want the rank and file common folks in China to learn about my opinions on teaching volleyball to young girls, life in this little town, or how cute my wife and kids are.

banned in China

Bomb Threats Day 2

The kopy kats are crawling out of the woodwork today. After yesterday's bomb threat at Burroughs High School there was a bomb threat this morning at Murray Middle School. The School district decided to send all those students home for the day also. This created a huge backup of traffic at the base front gates. The wait to try and get back into the base after lunch was over 30 minutes.

When I arrived at work I found out that there was another threat at BHS. This time they are not sending the kids home. They evacuated them to the football field and they will wait there until the all clear to return to class is given.

I hope that they catch the moron who is doing this and come down on them like a ton of bricks. Especially the kid who made the bomb threat at Murray Middle School which is located on a United States Navy Base. Apparently some kid's parents haven't done a very good job of teaching their children about cause and effect and responsibility for your actions. So they may have to learn it the hard way. Meanwhile their classmates and the citizens of our small town all pay the price for their stupidity.

Purge?

Recently the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired eight United States Attorneys. These firings have the liberal wackos in Congress and the antique media all in a tizzy. They are all frothing at the mouth over this “purge” by George Bush.

Funny I don’t remember any hue and outcry from the antique media and the dimocrats in Congress when in 1993 Bill Clinton demanded the resignation of ALL 93 U.S. Attorneys. Now that is a purge. You have to give old Slick Willie credit. He knew how to purge an organization.

Maybe the media would be happier if George Bush’s had fired all the U.S. Attorneys instead of just getting rid of a few idiots. I doubt it. George Bush could hold a press conference tomorrow and announce that he was bringing all the troops home from Iraq tomorrow, banning internal combustion engines and supporting Hillary for President and the antique media would find a way to slam him for it.

Bomb Threat

There was a bomb threat at Burroughs High School yesterday afternoon. My daughter was sent home with around 1700 of her classmates around 11 AM yesterday.

Boy things sure have changed since I was in high school. We only had one bomb threat during the three years I went to high school. They evacuated the school to a practice football field across the street where we all hung out while the building was searched. They did not release us until the school day ended three hours later. BHS was at least smart enough to send these kids home.

Which brings us to a communication problem that we discovered in our home. My daughter has a cell phone. Stuff like this was exactly why we let her have one. However she is apparently not willing to talk on it. She will make calls, but won't talk. She apparently learned this from her mother. But she is not the only one with a problem, She won't talk on the phone and I won't answer one.

I was home for lunch yesterday. I have a habit of not answering the phone while I am home for lunch. I don't have a lot of time and I usually use it to just de-stress for a few minutes. In the past when I answered the phone I would spend my entire lunch hour telling telemarketers that I'm not interested in buying thier crap. So I let the machine pick up the phone while I'm home during lunch.

Yesterday while trying to enjoy a quiet few minutes the phone just rang off the wall. I had 5 calls in about 20 minutes. All five of them hung up as soon as the machine picked up. So I assumed that they were not important calls. As it turns out, two of them were my daughter and three were my wife who was in a panic because she had learned from someone at work that the school was being shut down and she wasn't able to get a hold of our daughter and didn't know where she was.

My daughter in the mean time had called the house, my office, my dear wife's office, our house again and finally gave up and called her grandmother to come pick her up.

I have since explained that if she had simply started talking when the machine picked up her first call I would have picked up the phone, we could have talked and I would have come picked her up.

In the end, everything turned out well thanks to Grandma. My dear wife spent the afternoon in a panic and having a meltdown worrying about her baby. I got a pretty good laugh out of the whole thing. Not that I think that bomb threats are funny. I just found our families inability to communicate in spite of two cell phones, and three POTS lines between our home and work locations rather amusing.

I am worried about my dear wife though. Since she missed one important call yesterday while she was in the bathroom I'm afraid she might not go to the bathroom at all today. Either that, or she will end up injuring someone when they trip over the wire in the hallway when she drags her phone in there with her.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beginner Volleyball Lessons

Based on many of the Google and Yahoo search strings that are leading people to this blog a lot of people are looking for information on beginner volleyball lessons and drills.

This seems to be an area of interest for many people. So in a moment of pretentious confidence I have decided to try and an article about what I have been doing to teach volleyball to beginners. That said I need to point out that I am not an expert coach by any stretch of the imagination. I have only been coaching middle school aged girls for four years and I’m each year I learn new stuff that I wish I has known the previous years. So consider yourself warned.

What to teach beginners?


You need to teach beginners not only volleyball skills but also how to be an athlete. Don’t teach just passing, serving, setting and hitting. Teach them how to run, jump, hop, swing their arms, balance themselves and move quickly. Teach them how to warm up, stretch, workout and cool down properly. If you don’t know how to do these things yourself, find help.

Teach them to be good students, good athletes and good teammates. Teach good sportsmanship.

Many beginners start around 10 years old. They are truly “little girls”. You need to recognize that they are still little girls. But do not talk to them or treat them like little girls. I have found that my beginners respond best if they think I expect them to try and keep up with their older teammates. However, do not expect them to keep up, just expect them to try. Most beginner players are young, still growing and in almost all cases - awkward. Do not expect miracles. Many beginners may take up to a couple years to start looking like volleyball players. You may spend months working with a young girl whom you privately begin to suspect is never going to catch on. Suddenly overnight this small hopeless athlete wanna-be will transform into a serving or passing machine. Then just as suddenly the next day, it will be gone again. Do not look at these sudden flashes of brilliance as flukes or isolated incidences. Look at them as teasers of what is to come. They are just a preview of the potential in that child just waiting to explode outwards.

Treat your beginners like they are experienced athletes. Don’t talk down to them or talk to them like they were babies. Modify your comments and critiques of them for their appropriate age and experience. You might immediately correct an 8th grade player’s mistakes when overhand serving but you may have to let several errors made by a beginner serving underhand go by without comment. Only correct beginner’s mistakes when they repeat them. Single isolated errors are more often a result of a lack of control and an immature muscle and nervous system. For all your players concentrate your comments on the positive things they do. You have to correct their mistakes, but try to put your emphasis on their positives. I tell my players it is my job to tell you all the things you are doing wrong. So don’t get upset or think that I am picking on you. If you are tired of me telling you to stop bending your elbows, then stop bending your elbows. I would much prefer to talk to you about how great your serving has become rather than constantly criticizing your bent-elbow passing.

If you do happen to have an athlete who catches on quickly and learns the skills easily do not allow them to take any shortcuts. You may push a child like this a bit harder and encourage them to improve even quicker. But you still have to work on all the basic athletic and volleyball skills anyway. In many cases an athlete who catches on quickly will have early success even though they may have major flaws in their techniques. Do not allow them to continue practicing with the flaws. Eventually that minor flaw will become a hard to break bad habit.

Sometimes a player who catches on quickly will become the envy of their teammates because they are a “natural athlete.” I try to be very quick about squashing that line of thinking. There are no natural athletes. Most players who people think of as natural athletes are just the people who worked harder and longer than their teammates.

In addition to athletics and volleyball skills you have to teach beginners about the game itself. Teach them how the game is played. Start with the basics. Someone has to be the first one to explain things like:
• How points are scored. (Rally or Side-out scoring)
• Everyone except the server must be on the court when the ball is served.
• A team is allowed only three hits.
• A Block is not a hit. (Most beginners will not be able to block for quite a while but make them learn to do it anyway, don’t wait until they can reach the top of the net)
• A player cannot hit the ball twice in a row (except for when the first hit is a block)
• Only 6 players are allowed on the court
• Only the team captain or coach may talk to the referee during the match.
• Rotation order cannot be changed during the game
• Where do the referees and linesmen stand and what do they do.
• Court positions and overlap are important, (especially if you teach a set offense)

Teach them the rules of the game:

• Rules are important, but to a kid they can also be boring, the kids think that they are there to play, not be lectured to:
• Do not try to cram all the rules down their throats at one time.
• Do not hand them a rule book and expect them to read it.
• Do not stand around and read rules to them.
• Dole out the rules a couple at a time over several sessions. More than a couple minutes at a time on rules and you will lose your audience.
• During water breaks – quiz your players about rules. (While they drink show them a referee signal and just let them yell out what it means).
• Teach them all the referees hand signals and what they mean.
• Don’t talk about anything that you can demonstrate. Set a ball on the sideline and let them look at it from all directions. Demonstrate when the ball is in or out.
• It may take most of a season to teach them all of the rules.
• Get the important ones out of the way early (3 hits, 6 players, rally scoring, etc)
• Everything else can be presented as object lessons during scrimmages and practices.
• Don’t be afraid to stop a practice and use an existing situation to demonstrate a rules violation.
• Show them what it feels like to brush the net with their shoulder. Let them feel the difference between hitting the net and having the ball hit the net into them.
• Do not allow them to practice mistakes.

Teach them sportsmanship.
• Teach them to shake hands with their opponents, coaches and referees.
• Teach and lead them in cheering their opponents,
• Insist that they thank the referee for his efforts (after the match).
• Encourage them to talk to their opponents after the match. They’re all kids, let them be kids.
• Do not tolerate any disrespectful behavior towards teammates, coaches, opponents, referees, fans, parents or classmates. Do not allow them to glare, scowl or roll their eyes at you, each other, their opponents or their parents.
• Do not disrespect your players or their parents.
• Teach them to shag balls.
• Teach them to wipe up water that they spill.
• Do not allow them to talk or bounce balls when their coach is talking.
• Temper-tantrums happen. Players will not get angry just because you tell them not to. Dealing with tempers depends on the player’s and the coach’s personalities. I try the approach that if the practice is hard enough and fast-passed enough in most cases they will be too tired to get angry at anyone other than you.
• Remind them regularly to thank their parents for letting them play volleyball.

Teach them specific league rules.

• Players must wait in a certain area for games to start
• Players can/cannot take water bottles onto the court
• Players can/cannot pursue a ball outside of certain boundaries (other courts, bleachers, etc)
• Whatever your local rules are.

Teach them to play safely.
• Insist that they know where they are hitting the ball.
• Make them be aware if their jumping area is clear.
• Stop play for balls rolling onto the court.
• No Jewelry! You don’t want to ever watch a player snag an earring on the net and see it torn sideways out of their earlobe (trust me on this, it isn’t pretty when it happens to an adult, I don’t want to watch it happen to a child). Being stabbed by metal hair barrettes or bobby pins or getting fingers twisted by necklaces or bracelets isn’t pleasant either.
• Roll the ball under the net.
• Do not kick balls towards teammates or opponents.

Teach them the parts of the court
• The positions on the court (1- server, 2 – right front, 3 – middle front, 4 – left front, 5 – left back, 6 – middle back)
• The roles players may fill on the court - Middle Blocker, Outside Hitter, Setter, Defensive specialist, Libero, Opposite Hitter (front row setter in a 6-2 offense)
• The size of the court
• What the attack line is for
• Where and how to rotate players
• Where and how to substitute players
• Where the coaches and substitutes are allowed to stand or sit.
• Teach them how to set up the standards and nets once they are big enough to do so without injuring themselves or others around them.

Basic Skills Drills and Practices
For beginning players the most important volleyball skills to master early are passing and serving. In most beginner leagues a team that can pass and serve will win most of their games. They also need to learn how to set and hit. But don’t make them an early priority.

If I had my way I would spend my entire first couple practice sessions working on nothing but passing. But the players get bored after a while and you need to mix things up. Besides, dangling the thrill of spiking and overhand serving in front of them keeps them trying to improve. On my teams, you have to earn the right to practice serving overhand. I need to know that I can count on a player being a reliable underhand server before I allow her to spend practice time on overhand serving.

Teaching and Practicing Passing
I'm not going to try and describe the physical part of the stance and motion of the forearm pass. There is an excellent description of the physical act of passing a volleyball here:

http://volleyball.about.com/od/passing/ht/howtopass.htm

TOSSING
To start, have your players pair up and practice tossing a volleyball back and forth. Emphasize that their toss has to be a high arcing toss that lands in your partner’s hands. Start six feet apart and toss with a two handed underhand toss. After a few repetitions, move them back a few feet. Continue this until they are tossing ball about half the width of the court. Make sure the player calls every ball they are about to catch.

PASSING

Once they start getting the hang of tossing line them up and demonstrate while the players copy your grip and stance. Have them practice the passing motion several times without a ball. At this point I like to walk down the line a couple times and toss a ball to each player for her to pass back to me. Make each player call the ball before they pass. If the team is new I make them call out their name before they pass for the first practice or so. This allows both me and their teammates a chance to learn names. Make brief comments about gross errors in form or style at this time. But don’t get too picky. Let the little things go for right now. Your goal at this point is to get them passing. Be sure to congratulate each player for each good pass. After several passes through the line, pair them up again for a little toss-pass.

TOSS-PASS
The players partner up about 6 feet apart and let them toss-pass back and forth with one player tossing the ball to her partner who passes it back where the first player catches and tosses it again. Repeat this several times then switch roles. After a couple times switching roles, have them each step back a bit and start the drill over again. Again, each passer should call the ball before passing.

Don’t let them move too far apart too quickly. Start working on form and accuracy before working on distance. Repeat this drill every practice for awhile or until they all master it. Early on you will want to start all practices (after warm-ups and stretching) with this drill.

PASS-PASS
Once most of your players can pass most of their attempts back to the tosser, you can let them try passing back and forth.

Be aware that both the toss-pass and pass-pass drill can be very chaotic. At any moment several of your players will be chasing balls instead of tossing or passing.

The down side of this toss-pass, pass-pass drill is that while it teaches them to toss and pass a volleyball it does so in a static manner. For the most part the players are standing still. Volleyball is a movement game. So don’t limit your passing to just this drill. Use this drill only for beginners and warm-ups. Pass-pass drills are the best place to comment on and work on form errors. As the players are passing the coach can walk among them watching and critiquing their technique.

PASSING LINES
Passing lines are the basis of many volleyball drills. The basic passing line starts with the coach and a basket of balls standing at the net. One or two players are lined up on the same side of the net as the coach but on the other side of the basket – they are the targets. Your passers are lined up single file at the number 6 (back center) position on the court.

The coach tosses a ball to the first player in line who passes it to the first player in the target line. The target catches, or chases down the ball and puts it in the basket then goes to the end of the passing line. The passer after she passes goes to the end of the target line. Do not allow you players to mover through the middle of the drill. Do not allow players to walk through the drill. They should always run from one spot to the next. This drill can be slow or fairly up beat. Once the players get used to the drill you can move right along, often tossing the next ball just as the first ball is reaching the targets.

Passing lines starts out simple. As your athletes improve the drill should get harder. You do not have to always toss the ball to the player. In fact, after one or two warm up passes you should never toss the ball to the player. Move them left, right, up or back. This is one drill where you can easily mix beginner and advanced players. The coach just has to modify the toss depending on the player’s skills. Toss the ball closer to slower beginner players. Advanced players can chase down balls tossed to all four corners of the court.

Other options for passing lines allow the coach to toss the ball underhand or overhand, simulating an off speed spike. Eventually the coach can actually start easily hitting a ball at the more advanced players. NEVER hit a ball at a beginner. Most of them do not have the speed or skills to defend themselves from a hard hit ball. Even an easy hit can scare or injure a beginning player. Not all injuries are physical. You don’t want your players to become afraid of the ball, and/or their coach.

Passing line drills can be run with the targets on the same side of the net as the passers, but the coach on the opposite side of the net tossing, serving or spiking the ball to be passed.

In order to simulate a misguided second hit, the coach can toss from the same side of the net as the passers, but move the targets to the middle of the court on the other side of the net. The coach can toss from off the sides of the court or from behind the passing line. If your gym has open rafters, toss the ball into the rafters so it bounces back down in an unpredictable manner.

You can add extra targets to the line and have each passer pass in succession several balls tossed or spiked to different parts of the court.

The main points to emphasize with passing lines are:
• Move to the ball, establish your stance and then pass to the target.
• Always have a separate tosser and target. Learn to pass the ball somewhere other than back where it came from.
• Try and keep the configuration of the drill to simulate game like situations. Tell your players what that game circumstance they are practicing is.
• Insist players call the ball before they pass. If the drill is simulating a third hit that should go over the net, the rest of the passers should yell “over” to help remind the passer to get the ball over the net.
• Encourage players to yell guidance to the passer – “Short”, “Long”, “Out”, etc.
• Vary the direction of your tosses. If a player starts second guessing and cheating towards one direction or the other toss the ball the opposite direction.
• Verbally congratulate great passes. Only criticize major form errors and truly wild passes. Passing lines is a place to work on moving and passing. Not small form errors. Do that during Pass-pass drills.

PASS AND RUN
Pass and run is also known as a passing shuttle. Two lines of 3 or more line up single file on a single line facing each other like they are setting up for a tug of war. Have the first player on one end of the line toss the ball to the front player on the other end of the line to start the drill. From that point on the ball is passed back and forth between the two lines. Each time a person passes a ball they run to the back of the line they just passed to. The object is to see how many passes in a row the players can complete before missing one.

This drill is not for raw beginners. Your players have to be able to have a chance for their pass to get where it is intended before this drill will work. But this drill can be used as a team success metric. Each week have them run this drill for 5 minutes and keep track of how many successful passes they make in a row. Try to improve that number each week.

Pass and run can also be done as a set and run drill once they learn how to set.

Teaching and Practicing Underhand Serving

Other than passing, a good underhand serve is the second most important skill for a beginning player to master. It is also a skill that is often overlooked and under appreciated. I have never been able to hit a good overhand float serve but I have a pretty good underhand floater. You will be amazed at how often a player who can receive the hardest overhand serves with ease will be flummoxed by a softer underhand serve.

The footwork for underhand and overhand serving is almost exactly the same. So make sure your players learn the footwork early so they don’t have to unlearn and relearn it later.

Underhand serving should be the easiest thing to do in the game of volleyball. It is after all the only time during a game where a player gets to hit a ball that is not moving.

The two main components of a basic underhand serve are the step and swing, and the hit. The step and swing is just that. For right handed players the step and swing is just a step with the left foot and a back to front swing with the right arm. I always start my players working without a ball. Have them stand behind the service line with their heads, shoulders, hips and feet all facing where they want the ball to go. In this case the middle of the other side of the court. The player should stand with their weight on their right foot; the left knee should be bent with their toes resting lightly on the floor for balance. Their left hand should be low in front of them tuned upwards like they are trying to cradle a ball. Their right hand should be swinging lightly in a straight line between their hips and the imaginary ball in their left hand. When they are ready to hit, they swing the right arm backwards (keeping the elbow straight). As the right arm reaches the back of swing and starts forward all their body weight should go with it, as they step forward from their right foot to their left. They should be balanced on their left foot at the same moment that their hand passes through the spot where the imaginary ball is. The natural continuation of this movement is to take a second step back onto their right foot and onto the court as their right hand continues to swing upwards until their arm is pointing in a straight line over the top of the net where they wanted the ball to go.

That is a very log winded way of saying – step with your left foot at the same time you swing with your right arm while keeping your body and right arm swing path all pointed the direction you want the ball to travel.

DO NOT THROW THE BALL INTO THE AIR TO HIT IT. Underhand serving is a very simple skill, don’t complicate it unnecessarily.

Practicing the step and swing I make the players line up and repeat the step and swing motion several times. This is all about timing, and getting your feet and hands to work together. Most people when they walk naturally swing their arms so that their left foot and right arm are synchronized. But somehow when you try to do the same thing serving a volleyball it confuses younger players. So I always spend some practice time working on coordinating their step and swing. When you get a whole line of players working on this motion at the same time looks like a tryout for The Temptations. But since none of my players ever have a clue who The Temptations are the joke always falls flat. If their parents laugh, I take that as a chance to berate them for neglecting their children’s education in fine music.

While your athletes are practicing the timing of the step and swing you should be watching their form. Make sure the arm swing is straight back and forth. Don’t let them swing across their body. Their stance should be knees slightly bent and a slight bend at the hips. Get them started watching where the ball will be on their hand right from the start. Do not let them look up at the net until after they have “hit” the ball.

The hit. I prefer that players hit the ball with the heel of their hand and the wrist. Their arm should be turned so that the palm of their hand is facing forward and their wrist slightly cocked so that their fingers are back out of the way. Contact should be right where the wrist and the heel of the hand meet.

However, many younger girls mistakenly believe that they are stronger if they hit the ball with a closed fist. I used to not allow this. But after a couple of years it became obvious to me that it was more important to get them to have some early success than it was to force them to do things in one certain way. So I will let them serve the ball with the side of a closed fist. Just make sure that their thumb is down to the side of the fist, more or less wrapping around the index and middle fingers so that they do not contact the knuckles of the thumb with the ball.

When you think your players are ready to try serving with a ball. Pair them up with one half of each pair on each side of the net, standing opposite each other on the attack line. I have rarely met a beginner that doesn’t think she can hit a ball over the net from that position. Then let them gently serve the ball to their partner who is supposed to catch the ball and serve it back. Don’t let them just pound away with this drill. Make them stay in control and serve the ball to their partner. After several repetitions of this drill have each girl take one or two large steps backwards and start all over again. Eventually they will move all the way back to the service line.

This practice technique will teach them some control. It will also give them a chance to figure out how hard they have to swing at a ball to get it over the net. For the coach it will give you a good look at which of your players need to work on their serving distance. Some will very quickly be able to serve the full court length. Others will need some time to be able to serve a ball all the way to the net. For the ones who are struggling, allow them a shorter service line for a while. You don’t want them distorting their service style trying to hit the ball harder if they are just not strong enough yet.

Don’t expect immediate results. Even from the attack line serving will take time to master. Just keep making them concentrate on the step and swing, eyes on the ball and good clean contact.

The most common mistake I see in beginning servers is that they take their eyes off the ball. Since these younger athlete’s nervous and muscle systems are not fully developed yet they often have a hard time making their hands hit something they are not looking at. They MUST watch the ball all the way through the service motion. Moving their hitting hand even an inch or so from the center of the ball will result in a glancing blow which will send to ball any one of several wrong directions. This is why you make them line up their head, hips, and feet the direction they want to serve. They do not have to watch the net, it isn’t going anywhere. The ball is going to do the traveling, make them keep their focus on it.

If you have a player who looks like they are doing things right but their serves are very erratic, watch their eyes. More often than not they are looking up at the net before their hand makes contact with the ball. Then when their hand does contact the ball it is not a flush contact and the ball will squirt from one side or the other, or it will drive low into the net.

The second most common mistake I see is not keeping their left hand (which is holding the ball) low and still. If they raise their left hand as they swing their right they end up chasing after the ball. Serving a ball that is moving away from their hand usually results in a high short serve.

Third most common mistake is not swinging straight. If they swing across their body the ball will almost always go left out of bounds. The arm swing must be straight along the line that they want to ball to travel. They should end up with their nice straight arm pointing over the net at the ball as it sails towards their opponents.

SERVE AND RUN
After your players get a little proficient at underhand serving you can start some drills. For the serve and run drill each girl will need her own ball. Then they serve a ball, then chase down the ball they served and serve it back the other way. The object of this drill is to try and serve five good serves in as few a tries as possible so that the players can minimize the amount of running they have to do. As they get more proficient you can raise the expectations to 10 good serves. You can require that their serves have to be made in consecutive order as they improve further.

SERVING RELAY
Divide the team into two squads. Both squads line up behind the service line on the same side of the net. The first person in each line has a volleyball. When the coach yells go, they each serve a good serve. Then they have to chase down the ball and return it to the next person in their line who then serves, chases down the ball and returns it to the next player in line until everyone has served, chased and returned. If a player misses their serve they have to chase down the ball and get back in the front of the line to serve again. They first team finished wins.

DEAD FISH
Divide the team into two squads, one on each side of the net. Both teams start serving. Every time a person misses a serve they have to go lay down on the floor on the side of the net they are serving to. They have to lay flat and cannot sit, crawl or move around. They have to stay there until they are hit by a teammates serve. Then they can rejoin their teammates. The first team to run out of players loses. The kids love this drill and I usually put a 5 minute time limit on it because it very quickly becomes an excuse to just lay down on the court and rest.

TARGET SERVING
The team lines up off the back line of the court and serves one at a time. I put a target on the other side of the court like a chair. The first person who hits the target with a serve gets to pick what drill we end practices with. Since I always end practices with some sort of running drill (suicide relays, etc) they usually are pretty motivated to hit that chair with a serve. As a team they each only get one shot (two if I’m feeling generous) at this, if they all miss, I get to pick the final drill.


That is pretty much the basics for passing and underhand serving as I teach it. If you are a parent and are looking for things to work with your child in the back yard the best thing you can do with them is toss the ball for them to pass it back to you. But remember to move them around. Don’t just throw the ball to them. If the toss is close to them don’t let them reach for it. Get their feet moving. Remember it is always – Move to the ball, set your stance and pass the ball.

Back Yard “Net”
If you have the space in your yard to practice serving but don’t have a net. Get a piece of ¾ inch PVC pipe. Put a 2 foot cross bar on one end, stick the other end in the ground until the cross bar is 7 feet, 4 inches off the ground. This will represent the top of the net. The service line should be 30 feet away from your “net.” To accurately represent the court you should have a 30 foot area to serve into on the other side of your PVC pole. Width should be that critical. A player needs to learn to serve in a straight line. So 10 or 15 feet in width should be plenty.

This simple “net” is also useful for a couple younger players to pass back and forth over.

This article ended up being a lot longer than I planned on. So I will try and write more some other time about teaching beginners how to set and spike.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

49

49

IL

50-1

7 squared

Today is pi day. 3.14. It is also my birthday.

According to my sister I'm older than dirt and close enough to 50 that she can round up and claim I'm half a century old. Her turns comes in just a couple years.

I didn't have the kind of day I wanted to today. I have never gone to work on my birthday. For 25 years I have always taken a vacation day on my birthday. My normal birthday routine is to sleep in, get some exercise with a walk, a bike ride or some golf. Then I like to catch an afternoon movie. I've been doing this for 25 years now. This year was different. I needed to have a meeting with a guy at work this week about a job. The only time he had available in his schedule was this morning. So I abandoned my own personal quarter century tradition and rolled my one year older butt out of bed, showered, shaved, dressed and went to work this morning.

When I got to my meeting I found his door locked and no one around. I waited for about half an hour and finally gave up and went over to my office to see if there were any messages on my phone or e-mail. I had one phone message on my machine from 1:30 yesterday afternoon telling me that the guy I needed to meet with had changed his plans and wanted to meet this afternoon at 2:30 instead. I was livid. I am also sick and tired of our phone answering system at work. The last thing I did last night before leaving the range where I was working was to check for phone messages. There were none. Then this morning there was a message dated yesterday afternoon. This is not an isolated occurance. I have checked for messages before leaving for lunch and had none, and when I get back I find two messages on the system from earlier that morning.

So I stood there in my office wondering if I should blow off the rest of my birthday plans and keep the afternoon meeting or salvage what I could of my plans and put the meeting off until next week. While trying to decide I noticed an email from my boss. When I opened it up I found out that he has arranged for me to be pulled off the testing I'm helping with and reassigned to excorting some visitors around the base next tuesday. This really pissed me off. Since my boss thinks that my time is better spent excorting uncleared visitors around instead of doing something useful I decided that I really didn't give a damned today. So I called the voicemail for the guy from my meeting and politiely explained that I was on leave today and I had already changed my morning plans for him and I was unable to change my afternoon plans. I explained that I would be happy to meet with him anytime next week, except on tuesday. If escorting visitors is more important than testing then it is also probably more important than a job interview.

Then I left work, came home and took a nap. I went to see 300 this afternoon. It was a pretty good movie. I'm no historical expert on Leonides and his Spartans but this movie had very little history in it. About the only historically accurate stuff was probably some of the main character's names. But that was no big deal. I didn't go to see a historical documentary I went to see an adventure movie. It was a pretty darned good one. My only complaint was that the ending was too much like giving up. The action was great. The stylized battle sequences were fantastically done.

After the movie there wasn't much time left in my day. I picked my daugher up and took her to volleyball practice. During her practice I has a coach's meeting for the city league. I got my roster and schedules. I have a very young team. It should be an interesting year.

When we got back home around 8 PM the twins were bursting with excitement. The fact that I had a small pile of wrapped presents sitting on the table to be opened was driving them nuts. So I opened my presents. We had some homemade carrot cake. Watched an episode of Mythbusters and then everyone headed for bed. Don't let it be said that this old man doesn't know how to party.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rapid Performance Art

Apparently a couple French performance artists caught the good people of Rapid City, SD a little off guard with thier avante garde performance at the Dahl Center the other night.

After stripping off their grubby clothes, the pair gobbled potato chips and spit them on the crowd, vomited into a filthy commode and threw around fake feces and urine before being shut down about a half hour into what was to be a 45-minute performance.


I grew up in Rapid City in the 60s. The only performance art I remember as a kid was watching the hippies in Wilson Park dancing to whatever music was playing in their heads at the time.

My main question is why was anyone still sitting in the seats watching when the show was shut down. Oh wait, I suspect it was kind of like driving past the scene of an accident. You know you shouldn't look but you just can't help yourself.

Seeing as how feces and urine were a key part of their performance I suspect that the NEA will be cutting the artist a large check.

Get Out of Jail Free Child

The Boston Globe is reporting that last Tuesday Federal agents raided a leather company in New Bedford Massachusetts. The agents arrested 327 illegal aliens in the raid. But by wednesday they had released 60 of them so that they could go home and take care of their kids.

Karin Fernandez had problems in Honduras.

She was two months pregnant, and the baby's father was gone. She had only a ninth-grade education and no work.

But her aunt in New Bedford offered a solution: Come to Massachusetts. Have the baby here. Work in the leather goods factory where it's easy to find a job.

"I was in a really ugly crisis," said Fernandez, 19.

In late 2005 she paid a smuggler $4,500 to bring her over the border. She made it to New Bedford and to the factory where the managers were said not to care if their employees' documents were fake.

She started at $7.50 an hour, no benefits, cutting material for special military backpacks.

She followed the factory's strict rules, including a ban on snacking at work stations. Working at Michael Bianco Inc. was tough, but she was grateful for the job. She couldn't come close to making $300 a week in her homeland. Here she had money to feed her daughter, now 9 months old, and to send half her salary to her mother in Honduras.

...

She was one of 327 workers picked up at the factory that morning, unable to prove they were in the country legally.

"I cried," she said. "I begged them to let me go because I have a daughter."

She was held until 7 Tuesday night, then released to care for her child.

By yesterday afternoon, 60 of the workers taken into custody at the factory Tuesday had been released on humanitarian grounds, for example, if they had children with nobody else to care for them.


I have several questions about this. First off, this pregnant young woman who could not make anywhere near $300 per week in Honduras managed to scrape together $4500 to pay a smuggler to help her break our laws by entering our country illegially? If she could get $4500 why didn't she stay in Honduras and keep working that job?

Secondly, she is let go to take care of her daughter. Where the heck is the dear auntie who encouraged her to become a criminal in the first place. Also if she had no one to take care of her child, who was taking care of the child while she was at her illegial job.

Since when did a child become a get out of jail free card or a green card? We need to stop coddling these foreign invaders and start charging them with child endangerment if they try to use a child as an excuse to stay here. My dear wife and I have three children. I am under no illusion that if we were arrested for anything that we would be released to care for our children. Besides our personal belief system that laws should be obeyed, we stay out of trouble so that we will be here to care for our children. That is what good parents do.

If I were to take a child with me to a robbery, or a murder, or even a high speed chase through town once I was caught and charged you can bet that child endangerment charges would be added onto my list of offenses. But an illegal alien brings a child with them while partaking in an illegal invasion of the United States and we treat them like that child makes them special.

If the illegals who were arrested last week are worried about their children then reunite them with those children on the boat home. Or place the kids in a foster home while the parents do time to pay for their crimes. If her baby doesn't recognise her when she finally gets out, tough. She made the decision to break our laws. She even went so far as to pay someone to help her break our laws and she put her child into a dangerous position because of those choices. Now that she has been caught she wants special treatment. Sorry honey, that is the price you pay for being a criminal.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Two Years

I started this blog two years ago. It has been an interesting two years. I have had days where I posted four or five times a day. Other stretches where I have gone up to a week without posting. This is my 530th posting to this blog.

Lately I have been on a dry spell. Not from a lack of desire to write, or from a lack of things to write about. It is mostly because I just can't seem to put together more than a few coherent thoughts in a row. I just seem to have so much stuff rolling around in my head that I can't get any of it out straight.

I would like to say that I am going to make a concerted effort to write more regularly, especially since the democrats in Congress seem bent on giving me so much to write about. But I'm not sure I would be able to keep that promise. So I am going to try harder, but no promises. Especially since I found out that I may be coaching both a division 1 and division 2 teams in the city league this year. Oh boy. This could keep me very busy for the next couple months.

In the last two years I have had 16,227 visitors to my blog. This really surprises me. Too many bloggers out there are all about the hits. I really don't care. I don't accept advertising and I don't go out of my way to advertise my blog. If people stumble upon it then fine. If most folks never see it then that is fine also. I'm not writing for the world as a whole. I'm writing for myself and for the few members of my family who stop by occasionally to see what I am up to. I have one exception to that rule. I'm currently working on an article about teaching beginning skills to young volleyball players. Apparently the most common search string topics that lead people to my blog are questions about beginners volleyball. So I'm going to see if I can come up with something to accommodate those folks a bit. Hopefully I'll have it finished in the next couple days.

In the meantime, happy blog birthday to me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Volleyball Evaluations and Draft

Tonight were the volleyball evaluations and draft for this years city recreation league. This is the first time we have done this for the city volleyball league. In the past the league organizer would just divide up the players for the coaches and we played whoever we got. This year they tried something different. Each player ran through a quick set of evaluation drills while all the coaches watched. Then the coaches got together and selected our teams via a draft. This was a novel experience. Trying to rate a player based on seeing her pass 2 or 3 balls, setting a couple balls, two spikes and a couple serves was difficult. But with 48 players we didn't have enough time to do much else.

My draft started out on a down note. True to form my famous bad luck at gambling reared it's ugly head and I drew number eight out of eight for draft order. Since I was going to pick last I tried to get the administrators to let us redraw for draft order each round but they refused. Later after we were done, they admitted that I did get screwed by making me pick last in all six rounds. Next year they promise to redraw the draft order each round.

Since I had the 8th and 16th picks in this draft my selection of known quality players was going to be limited. Fortunately for me most of the coaches used their first round picks to take one of the few high school players that were there. With my pick I was able to select one of my two top 8th grade players from my middle school team. My other top 8th grade setter was taken by the local club team coach with his first round pick. Which says a lot about her abilities. He passed up a tall starting JV setter from the high school team to take a short middle school setter.

The remaining three players that I have coached on my middle school team that were there tonight were all taken in the first 5 picks of the second round. By the time I got to make my second pick all the girls in the evaluations who I had coached or had personal knowledge of their skills were taken. So I had to resort to depending on the evaluations I had made of the other players. When this process started I was hoping to build a team of girls that I liked working with but that wasn't possible so for my last 4 picks I had to settle for my guess of the best player available at that time. I got one girls who I rated weak in passing and setting but a strong hitter. She was fairly tall and hopefully I'll be able to improve her basic skills. I picked another fairly tall girl who didn't hit well, but seemed better than average at passing and setting. My remaining two picks seemed to be overall average players. I will still be assigned 2 additional players selected by the directors from the players who didn't show up for evaluations. Since I think most of my team is going to be fairly young I might get a more experienced player in the final two who will be assigned by the administrators. Or I may not.

I don't know what type of team I will have yet. Only time will tell that. But what I do know is since I only get one hour long practice each week, trying to mold these girls into a team in going to be challenge.

The highlight of the night was the performance of my middle school players. This league is for players between 13 and 17 years old. My two top 8th grade players were taken in the first round. The other three players were taken in the early second round. One of those players had to lie about her age to get into this league as she is only 12 years old. So 5 of the 48 players in the evaluations have played for me during the school year. All five of them were selected by the collection of coaches as five of the 12 best players there tonight. I'm about as proud of those five girls as someone who is not their parent could possibly be. I've repeatedly told their parents that in my opinion their daughters are some of the finest volleyball players in their age group here in town. It seems that other coaches may share my opinions.

Monday, March 05, 2007

My Career Sucks

I have never been a big fan of work. I have never understood people who can’t wait to get to work every morning. I don’t live to work. I work in order to have a life outside of work. Sure there have been periods in my career where I really enjoyed the work I had to do. But I never loved it enough to make it the focus of my life. No matter how enjoyable the job was, I found leaving for home at the end of the day even more enjoyable. Despite my dislike for most of my jobs I have always endeavored to do them the best I could. I show up, I do whatever it takes to get the job done. I work as long or in whatever capacity it takes to get the job done. I have tried to be pleasant, and friendly to work with. I have always tried to not make too many waves or to keep the waves I do make from capsizing the boat. I can only think of a couple instances as a kid where my bosses were not pleased with my work. Some of my bosses have not liked my attitude, but they never had cause to complain about my results. Even though my personal satisfaction with my career has never been that strong, I have always tried to perform to the best of my abilities. After all, that is what I was being paid to do.

My current situation at work has reached a new low for me. I was let go from my programmer job about 6 weeks ago. This doesn't mean that I am unemployed. I still get a paycheck I just don't have any work to do right now. Because of the way our work structure is organized these days this happens quite often. Most engineers, like myself, work for a specific technical program. But organizationally I belong to a different management structure. So when a program manager decides that he doesn't need my skills anymore he simply sends me back to my management branch to deal with. When this happens my management chain immediately jumps into action and starts nagging me about what I’m doing to find a new project to work for. My managers don't do anything to help me find a new program to work for. They don’t see that as their job. Their job is to harass and intimidate me until I find a new program to work for. They do this because until I do find a program to work for I am paid out of their overhead budget. Managers don't like this very much. They don't appreciate us working stiffs encroaching on their territory and spending their overhead money.

In the past when this has happened I have usually be able to land another program to work for in just a couple days. This time however I am having trouble finding work. The most frustrating part of this is according to the friends I have who are trying to help me find work there seems to be a lot of work out there that needs to be done. However I have not been able to get most of the managers who are in charge of that work to talk to me. I have noticed that the procedure for dealing with people looking for work these days is to ignore them. I send out e-mails and make phone calls and I get no response. It is reaching the point where I would love a manager to call me back or send me an e-mail telling me to "Drop Dead!" That would be a great improvement over no response at all. The most frustrating of the people ignoring me is my own branch and division heads. My branch head was warned two weeks before my last job ended that I would be looking for a new job. He ignored it until I actually called him to find out what overhead charge number I should start using. His response was to "encourage" me to find a job quickly and to send him a resume that he could circulate. So I sent him a second copy of my resume in case the first one I had sent him two weeks earlier wasn't sufficient. This situation prepared me so when he asked me for a resume again, three days later I wasn’t too surprised and I just sent him a third copy.

I guess his apathy to my situation shouldn't surprise me, I have sent two copies of my resume to my division head asking him for some leads on work. He hasn't managed to find the time in his busy schedule to respond to me either.

Then two weeks ago when I had been on "down time" for 4 weeks my Branch Head started getting desperate. In order to get me off his overhead he started lining up little jobs for me. So now instead of spending my time sending out e-mails and leaving phone messages that get ignored while looking for some long term work I spend my time doing little jobs that won't last and only accomplish two things. They keep me from charging my time to overhead and they keep me from spending time looking for other work.

So in order to stay away from overhead money I’m now in a situation that has me really pissed off. A little over a year ago the missile program I had spent most of my career working for let me go because they suffered some budget cuts. I understand that sometimes programs have to do this but in this case the program manager and his assistant, both men who I had considered friends of mine, passed on the duty of firing me to my branch head. I would have accepted my removal from that program without any hard feelings if either of them would have been man enough to just call me up and tell me in person. But sending my Branch Head to tell me to stop work on their program immediately with no advance warning and no opportunity to finish the projects I was working on left me feeling very betrayed.

Quickly, I found a programmers position with another project. This project turned out to be very frustrating to work for. They had a massive software project that interfaced several programs written in C, C++ and FORTRAN and operating across several networked computers. I was assigned several tasks and put to work with absolutely no training what so ever. Then after 15 months of working totally in the dark I was let go from this program because they needed to hire someone who knew ADA, which I don’t. In order to make room in the organization and the budget they had to get rid of an existing employee. I was the logical choice. I was the new guy and I knew less about the program than anyone else.

So I'm suddenly on downtime again. My branch head lined up some temporary work for me back on the missile program I was fired from over a year ago. They have some urgent tests that need to be run and they need another engineer to help with it. So I'm back working for them for a while. The ironic part is that since this isn't a long term commitment of employment, management considers me to still be on downtime. So while I'm being harassed daily by my managers about finding work, I'm putting in 12 to 13 hour long days helping to get a program that fired me after I worked for them for 19 years back on schedule so that once the tests are done they can fire me again.

Personally I think this entire situation sucks. But until I find a long term commitment for work, I’m stuck. My kids have gotten used to having a roof over their heads and food to eat. So I have to keep working.

To make matters worse the few job opportunities that I am hearing about are looking for Mechanical Engineers. I quit being a mechanical engineer about 15 years ago when the base management started telling all us mechanical engineers that they didn’t need us anymore. We were just not a part of their long term strategic plans. So I got myself some training, earned myself a master’s degree in Computer Science. While earning my degree I took jobs as computer support and network design and installations. Once I got my degree I went to work as a simulations analyst for the missile program that I had previously been a mechanical engineer, program manager and computer support.

Now most of the computer science related jobs are being contracted out. The only jobs for government employees that I’m hearing about are for mechanical engineers. Trouble is no one really wants a mechanical engineer whose skills and knowledge are 15 years out of date.

Now I know a lot of people who think I should stop complaining and just be glad that I have a job. But I don't think I am asking for much when I say I would like a job doing something useful. I would like something interesting to do but I can live with useful. An added plus would be a little consistancy and some long term prospects for employment. I have less than nine years to retirement and having something useful to do would make them go by much quicker.