Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I have managed to avoid catching the flu, that everyone around me seems to be sharing - until now. Monday afternoon I started feeling a little out of sorts. I had a tickle in my throat and my chest felt a little congested. By the time I went to bed Monday night I was running a low grade fever.

My fever broke around 8 Am Tuesday morning. Then came back again by mid afternoon. Last night when I went to bed it was 102.5. This morning it was only 100.2. Around 11 this morning my fever broke again, then it was back around 2PM, and gone again by 4PM. It is just a little past 5 now and I'm starting to feel chilled again. Oh boy...

I have sick leave to stay home and I am doing that. I have someone lined up to handle my volleyball team practices for the week. But I really hope I get over this before the weekend. My 14s volleyball team is scheduled to play in San Diego on Saturday. The thought of sending my girls off to play without me is just killing me. I know that my girls will be fine without me, their parents will be there, and once the games start my team is pretty self sufficient. I just need someone to keep track of the pace of the game and to call a time out if they get into trouble. But I like to fool myself into thinking that they need me there, even if they don't.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Naval Bullseye

Yesterday the Guided Missile Cruiser, USS Lake Erie, launched a STANDARD Missile 3 at a failed spy satellite that was falling out of orbit. The Lake Erie scored a direct hit.

I worked on the STANDARD Missile program for over 19 years. I never had the opportunity to work directly on the SM-3 Program. I spent most of my career on the SM-2 precursor. But I loved seeing the old program have this kind of success.

I hear a lot of people complaining about the cost of this exercise, around 30 million dollars. There is also a lot of hand wringing about what the rest of the world is going to think. It seems that a lot of people are worried that the rest of the world is going to see this as a threat. I think that the world would be yelling a lot louder if we let this satellite fall out of the sky and its fuel tank full of hydrazine didn't burn up in the atmosphere.

If the rest of the world takes a close look at this shot and sees that we fired one shot and hit a school bus sized object that was 150 miles away and moving 17,000 mph and decides that maybe they should not try shooting at us then I'm all for this kind of show boating. It doesn't do much good to stand around telling the world that we have missile defense capabilities if we don't have the ability to occasionally step up and prove it.

Gen James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provides further information related to this successful operation in a longer video.

Note this video is about 27 minutes long and may take a while to download.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Las Vegas Invitational

My oldest daughter and I got home from Las Vegas last night around 5:20 PM. We were both tired, and we think she is getting sick.

This morning (I had planned on taking today off work) she is still in bed - sick.

We left for the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament Friday morning around 10 AM. We picked up our three passengers (a parent and two other players). Then we hit the Trona Rd. heading for Las Vegas. Since it was a holiday weekend I had no intention of getting anywhere near I15. The last thing I wanted to deal with this weekend was a highway full of idiots from Los Angeles all trying to get to, or home from, Las Vegas as fast as they could. So we went through Death Valley to get there. The drive wasn't too bad. The road is a little rough in spots, but the lack of traffic sure make up for that. Sure it took a full four hours to get there. But I'll trade that extra 30 minutes on the road for only seeing 50 cars on the highway over a 200 mile stretch any day.

We got to Vegas and got checked into our Casino around 3 PM. We were staying at Arizona Charlies Casino on Decatur Blvd. It is an older place that isn't kid or health friendly. Meaning the entire casino, hotel and restaurants reek of cigarette smoke. Even the non-smoking rooms smell bad. Because even on the floors full of non-smoking rooms, people walk around the hallways smoking. So we took 9 young athletes to a three day volleyball tournament and dumped them into a smoke filled environment surrounded by sex and gambling for the weekend. Next year my daughter and I don't care where the team is staying. We will be booking a room in a motel, not a casino. We were there for the volleyball tournament, not the casino atmosphere. We're not sure why the director was there.

Friday night I was signed up to work the Unsigned Seniors Showcase. This is a two hour volleyball practice where unsigned seniors can show off their talents for all the college recruiters that were there for the tournament. I spend the first half hour serving at girls. This was exhausting. I have served for 10 or 1 minutes at a time, but never for 30 minutes. I did get a chance for a break after 20 minutes, but it only lasted 1 minuted before the coach on the other side of the court needed me to spell him. So it was back to serving again. After serving I had to toss balls to hitter for the next 40 minutes. This wasn't nearly as tiring as the serving. Actually I really had fun. After spending so much time on the court with 14s players, it was really different tossing balls for girls who really know how to hit.

The second session was full of setters. We ran a coach on three drill for about 30 minutes, I started out warming the players up for about 10 minutes, then this (much) younger coach took over and really ran them through their paces while I just shagged and feed balls for her. The second half of that session they moved our setters onto a court with several middles and two other coaches. So the three of us who had been working the setters didn't have much to do. Mostly I spent the last half hour shagging balls, and keeping people from wandering onto the courts. The showcase was fun, and I will probably volunteer to help out again next year. After all, I got a polo shirt and a $10 Subway gift card out of the deal. OK, so the pay wasn't great, but it did give me a chance to maybe help some young player get a chance to play volleyball in college. That made it worth while.

On Saturday we played in the top pool of the tournament at the Cashman Center on Las Vegas Blvd. Our pool consisted of the number one seed team in the tournament, 801 from Utah. Also the numbers 78 and 79 teams from Central Ohio and Colorado Springs, CO. Yes, we were the 156 (last place) seeded team in the tournament. Our team managed to put a scare into the team from Colorado Springs, losing the second game to them 24-26. The rest of the day was pretty much our girls getting whacked. Our second best game of the day was a 16-25 loss to the number one seeded team.

Since we had the afternoon off, and all of Sunday morning off, we took the team to the Tournament of Kings Show at the Excalibur. This dinner show was a lot of fun. It is a lot more theatrical than the Medieval Times dinner show down in La Palma. I prefer the Medieval Times show because there is a lot more horsemanship, combat skills and fighting. This show had a lot of pageantry and showmanship to it. But it was still entertaining. After dinner we decided to walk the strip with the girls for a while. Unfortunately this adventure got a bit out of hand and we ended up walking about a mile farther than most of the girls and parents wanted to walk. So by the time we got the players back to the Casino, they were all exhausted.

The next morning, no one else would get up in the morning with us, so my daughter and I rolled out of bed around 9 AM, we had breakfast at the IHop down the street, then did some shopping. We hit a couple shoe stores, and the Meadows Mall.

That afternoon our team was playing much better. We still didn't win any matches. But we did managed to take the first two teams we played to three games. Our third match was against our old friends from the Tehachapi Starlings team. This team and ours usually match up pretty well. The girls all get along and we have had a friendly rivalry going steadily since the beginning of last year. Unfortunately they were ready for us in that match and we provided them with the only two games, and the one match they won all weekend.

This last place finish in the second day of pool competition put us into flight 5a for the Monday competition. Monday was a single elimination bracket with 6 other teams. Unfortunately we showed up half asleep, with half the team starting to get sick, and we lost our first match of the day - 19-25, 15-25. So we had to hang around and keep score for the next match then we headed for home. We stopped by an A&W for lunch before leaving Las Vegas, again, to travel home through Death Valley. I was only about 10 minutes down the road when all three girls fell asleep. They only woke up as we reached potential bathroom stops when we asked if they needed to stop. They didn't, so we just shot straight on through to home.

By the time I went to bed last night the final results of the tournament were posted online. We started the tournament seeded in last place. We finished the tournament tied for last place with 6 other teams. When all was said and done, we were on of 8 teams in the tournament who did not win any matches. But, of those eight teams at least we were not one of the three who also did not win any games.

I think the tournament was fun. My daughter came home sick, tired and sick and tired of losing. The team had some troubles this tournament, but they also had some bright spots. I just hope that each of them learned something.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wind Damage

The last few days it has been pretty windy here in the high desert. Yesterday was the worst.

I was on the way out to Inyokern with the kids when we reached a traffic slowdown. The wind had blowen over a power pole right outside of Buttermilk Acres. The pole was leaning at about 45 degrees over both eastbound lanes of Inyokern Road. I don't think it had been down long. There was one electric company truck, and two highway patrol on the scene. They were routing westbound traffic onto the shoulder of the highway to make room for the eastbound traffic that was crossing the median to avoid driving under the leaning pole.

wind blown pole

I wasn't able to get my camera out quick enough to take a picture. But when the kids and I came back the road was still blocked and I snapped this one shot from about a hold mile away. So you have to look closely to see the leaning pole.

The detour to get home was a lot different than the detour getting to Inyokern. Both lanes of the highway were closed and most of the traffic was being routed down Jack's Ranch Road to Ward St. This was OK for a while until the traffic reached the quarter mile stretch of Ward street that is a one car wide dirt trail. So there was a lot of cars trying to go two directions on a one lane road and absolutely no traffic control. Fortunately for us we were in the line of cars that was bulling its way through while the line of cars going westbound sat and waited. I don't know how long they had been waiting, or would have to wait. With no control it could have been a long time before the eastbound traffic cleared.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Qualifier Number 3

We played Qualifier No. 3 at the American Sports Center in Anaheim CA at 3:00 PM Saturday. At least that was the plan. We arrived at the ASC around 2:15 and discovered that the morning sessions were still in progress. We couldn’t find an empty court to warm-up on so we took over the hallway in the back of the building near where the basketball standards are stored. It was kind of crowded but it gave the girls a place to pass and set for a while. We were supposed to start at 3 on courts B3 and B4 but at 3:00 the teams on those courts were just starting the second game of their last matches.

Eventually a court opened up over on the D row and hustled the girls over there to start warming up. We were about 10 minutes into a warm up and some guy and a referee come over to me and ask “Ridgecrest Starlings?” When I yes he says “You are up on court C3, right now.” Then the referee looks at me and says “I need your captains.” and walks away.

Well my girls were all on the court with me, but all their bags and my stuff, including lineup sheets in my briefcase were over in the corner with our parents. I sent one of the girls’ friends running to get their parents and our stuff while we moved over to court C3.

When we got there we found out that one of the teams in our foursome hadn’t showed up, but we were continuing on without them. So as our parents settled in to watch my girls got onto the court and ready to play. I was a little apprehensive because of how fast things were happening. I have tried to get my team into a mindset where they can play under any circumstances, even when rushed and hurried. I was very proud that they handled the situation very well.

Our first game was against Revolution 14-1, a team from the Lancaster/Palmdale area. Their coach had approached me earlier and asked if all my players had made it, since he was still waiting for two of his. Apparently they did get there before we were supposed to start playing.

My girls muffed the first couple serves to give the Revolution team a slight lead. But that is it for that game. We rolled to a pretty convincing 25-13 win. My players were serving a lot better than last week, and playing defense well. We didn’t get a chance to run much offense. Most of our points came off service aces, service errors by our opponents, or illegal rotations by our opponents. The Revolution team was running the same complex player rotation and serve receive rotation that our local high school team runs. Personally I think they were crazy, the rotation was way to complex for younger girls, but more importantly the game they play at this age doesn’t require it. It is a serve receive for older bigger serves and a game that is played a lot faster than the one we play. In the case of our match those younger player’s inability to maintain or control their overlap cost them 10 points in the first game and 7 or 8 in the second.

The second game was a game of experimentation for my team. I managed to get three of my girls to give their jump serves a try. One of them struggled with it a bit but the other two were doing well. They all three jump serve well in practice but are all afraid to do it in games. Hopefully the success they had will encourage them to use it more often. We won the second game 25-15.

Our second match was against a team from Palm Springs called Club Mojave. This team looked to be a stronger team than our first opponent. But they had a really hard time receiving our serves. We committed four serve errors that game, and won the game 25-5. In the second game our opponents got them selves collected and started playing some volleyball. At one point they had a 13-9 lead on us. But some solid serving (no jumps) and some good offensive plays finally led us to a 25-19 victory.

With the missing team never showing up we recorded a couple forfeits. So our record for the day was 3-0 in matches, 6-0 in games for a first place finish in our bracket. That finish should put us in the division 13 when the mandatory tournaments start next month.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Way to go Giants! I am a Dolphins fan dating back to 1971. So while I usually couldn't care less about the NY Giants, I was a huge fan this afternoon. I needed them to help protect the Miami Dolphin's undefeated season record.

My new favorite team, for at least 4 hours this afternoon, came through like gangbusters. The Giants upset the Patriots in Superbowl XLII, 17-14. Sure the Patriots won 18 games this season, but more importantly, they lost the one that really counted - the Superbowl.

Go Giants!!!!!

Qualifier Number 2

My 14s volleyball team played in our second tournament on Saturday. We left town at 4:30 in the morning. Drove down to the American Sports Center in Anaheim CA in time for the start of the tournament at 8:00 AM.

We were the number 4 seed in out bracket so we did not have to play the first match. We were scheduled to play in the second, third and fifth matches. We had officiating duty in the sixth match.

Our first game was against a team called Impact 14. We struggled in the first game, but managed to stay close. We lost that game 22-25. But I was hopeful. I hadn't seen that team do anything we couldn't counter, handle or out play. In the second game my girls seemed intent on proving me right. We jumped out to a small lead and were cruising right long until the game got to 21-18. Then the other team rotated a really good server to the line. This rotation coincided with my girls going just a little flat. They were down for just a couple minutes. But it was enough. I used my timeouts, and one substitution. But that didn't stop our opponents from stealing a 23-25 win from us. This Impact Team ended up finishing the day an undefeated 3-0.

Our next match was against a team from the Channel Island Volleyball Club. They had lost a close match against our third opponent of the day in the opening match of the day. We played OK but just couldn't seem to get out offense working. We lost the first game 16-25. This loss seemed to wake up my players a bit. We won the second game 25-16, and cruised through the third 15-5.

Our third match was against Conejo Crush 13s team. We probably matched up pretty well with this team as only 3 of my 8 players are too old to play 13s. For a group of 13s this team played really well. We won the first game 25-18. The second game was a different game. We just could not pull away from this team. They matched up point for point or short run for short run. We held our short lead most of the game but eventually fell behind 23-24. Then my worst fear happened. My star player rotated into the service spot. Normally this would be a good thing. But while she was setting and hitting well that day, and playing great defense, her serving was a nightmare. On the day this player, who has been a star of my middle school teams for 3 years, couldn't serve her way out of a wet paper bag. She was hitting 20% from the service line. Twice I had warned her that if she didn't get her act together I was going to make her start jump serving. Just so that she would have an excuse for missing. (btw, she has a very nice jump serve, that she is scared to us in games).

Well, this star player comes to the line, her team down one point, her opponents needing only one point to end the game, and she calmly and smoothly serves three straight service aces. I told her that I would consider that performance as redemption for the rest of the day, but I would still spend some time examining the game video to see if her serving problems in the last two tournaments was a technique or a mental problem. I'm really hoping its technique, I can fix that a lot easier than I can fix a mental one.

So we finished the day in second place in our bracket. I hope that is good enough to get us moved into the bronze bracket next Saturday. If not we will just have to play our way up during the mandatories which start on March 1st.

The only glitch in our day was some of the parents that came with us had some real trouble with the score keeping that was being done. They tended to get a little vocal when the teams score-keeping would make mistakes. Which happened a lot. I was shocked to see how little effort some of these other coach's put into the score-keeping process. Each team had to score-keep one match each day. Many of these coaches just dump a couple girls who may or most likely don't know how to keep score. Then they disappear. So we have girls who don't know what they are doing, or more likely just are not paying attention handling the scores for their opponents. In each of our games we had at least one stoppage of play in order for the referee to straighten out the score-keeping.

When the score-keepers would mess up the flip chart my parents in the stands would start yelling and pointing that the score was messed up. They were taking this personal because the mistakes were constantly being made against us. The referee we had was trying to be reasonable, but he was not going to allow anyone to yell at the score-keepers, even if they were messing up - a lot!

In the end, after we had finished our turn as scorekeepers the referee apologized to me and our parents for threatening to throw them out of the gym. He noticed the attention my girls paid to the score-keeping process, the lines and the paperwork. He saw that I stood there with my girls the whole time checking their work and helping them were needed. He also noticed that the two games we were score-keeping were the only games he refereed all day that he didn't have to stop the game to straighten out the score-keeping. He told me "If that is level of maturity and careful attention your parents have some to expect from volleyball players I can understand why they got so frustrated with the sloppy work from the other teams."

It made me feel good about my girls, and really disgusted with the half-assed job most of the other 14s coaches seem to be doing teaching their players about their off the court duties.

We got home about 6 PM Saturday night. Three of my players had a special engagement that evening. Our School was holding a major fund raising event that evening. The 20th Annual Saint Ann's School Car Raffle. The three players were supposed to show up dressed nicely and work as the "Vannas" for the night. Named after Vanna White their job is to take the ticket numbers as they are drawn off one board and move them over to another board. These three young athletes were radiant in their nice dresses and too high a heels. I was proud that none of them feel off their heels, off the stage, or asleep on the job. It was a long day for them and they did a wonderful job.

Our next tournament is next Saturday. But before then we have two practices and a lot to work on. I can hardly wait.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Berkeley Votes to Boot Marines - Update

Mark Williams on Fox News just called Berkeley the "Left wing cesspool of America."

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has just called for over 2 million dollars of federal earmarks to be pulled out of funding for the city of Berkeley.

“This is a slap in the face to all brave service men and women and their families. The First Amendment gives the City of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money. If the city can’t show respect for the Marines that have fought, bled and died for their freedom, Berkeley should not be receiving special taxpayer funded handouts. I am currently drafting legislation to ensure that American taxpayers aren’t forced to pay for this insult by rescinding all of the earmarks for Berkeley in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, and to transfer the funds to the Marine Corps.”

It's not every penny of federal money that we all pay to support Berkeley, but it is a start. Next they should close the post offices. After all, if the Marines have to go, then the post office should go also.

Berkeley council tells Marines to leave

According to the Contra Costa Times the Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 last Tuesday night that the U.S. Marines which have a recruiting center on Shattuck Avenue are no longer welcome in their city and that is is time for them to leave.

The council said that the recruiting station
"is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

Personally I think that the Marines should heed the Council's request and leave the city. But along with them should go every single penny of Federal Government money that is sent to the city of Berkeley. And I mean every penny, including all federal scholarships or financial aid that is given to any student at UC Berkeley. Any federal appropriation that would be spent in, or to the benefit of the City of Berkeley should be immediately canceled.

Then let the city know that in order to get their government largess back they have to go completely back through the federal appropriations process again from square one, and they have to do it for every single penny.

It is time that idiots like those council twits learn that blind hatred and stupidity has consequences. If you are an elected official who is that stupid and so intent on sharing their stupidity as the Berkeley City Council is, then they should have to face the consequences for their folly.