Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Volleyball

Today was the first day of Spring break for most of the students here in Ridgecrest. At least that is what the pubic schools call it. The private schools gave the students the day off for Good Friday. Regardless, the students had the day off and so did I, so we played volleyball.

We were originally scheduled to have practice tonight from 6PM to 8PM. But several of the girls wanted to go to the movies tonight, so I moved practice to 10:30 this morning. We also moved the venue from the indoor gym to the park.

Spring Volleyball in the Park

This is one of the few things I like about living here in the desert. It is March 21st. The second day of spring. In certain parts of the United States they are shoveling snow, suffering floods, and just dealing with the wrap up of a long cold winter. Here in Ridgecrest we are playing volleyball in the park, in shorts and tee shirts.

More Spring Volleyball in the Park

I made the girls run one lap of the park at the beginning of the practice so that we could call it a practice. After that I tried to get out of the way and just let them play volleyball. They played 2 on 2, 3 on 3 and some 4 on 5. I stepped in to even out the sides for a while but was saved when one of the younger girl's older sister showed up and took my place.

It was a beautiful day, warm, no wind and everyone had fun. We all decided we have to do this again soon on a Saturday and make it a family event. Parents, siblings, BBQ, and volleyball. Sounds like fun.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke passed away early this morning. While I rarely listed him on my list of top 5 authors. He was always on my top 10.

I was required to read Childhood's End when I was in high school. It was one of the first full length Sci-fi books I ever read. I was disappointed. There were no space battles. I few years later I had to read it again for a class in college. I enjoyed it a lot more the second time around.

I never really cared for 2001 - A Space Odyssey, the book nor the movie. But I loved Rendezvous With Rama and it's sequels.

Many people who have never heard of, or read any of Clarke's books may have heard of him from his three "laws" of prediction:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The first law provided sci-fi fans countless of hours of entertainment when Arthur C. Clarke and Issac Asimov would start discussing this theorem. But then anytime those two men were in the same place hilarity ensued.

I respected Arthur C. Clarke for his choice to live the last 58 years of his life in Sri Lanka. He could have been swamped by adoring fans throughout the western world if he chose to. He chose not to. I liked that.

For those of you who may think, "Ok, so he wrote a few sci-fi novels, big deal." Arthur C. Clarke is universally credited with developing the idea of Communication Satellites in the 1940s. So the next time you use your cell phone - Say thanks to Sir Arthur.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Home From San Diego

On Friday night, my oldest daughter and I drove down to San Diego for a volleyball tournament. We stayed at the Doubletree Golf Resort in Poway which seemed like a nice place, but we were not really there long enough to tell. Dinner that night was at a nearby Claim Jumper Restaurant with two other players and their parents and the coach and his Dad. We had a great time and a wonderful meal. I had the prime rib, medium rare. It was a delicious birthday dinner. My daughter ratted me out to the others that it was my 50th birthday. So they had the waitress bring me a slice of grasshopper ice cream pie with a candle in it. I was so full from dinner that I could only eat a couple bites. But the players at the table took care of the rest of it for me.

Our tournament the next day was held at the Epic Volleyball Club which is a fantastic facility. I got a chance to play there at the Starlings Directors meeting back in December so I was glad my daughter got the chance to play there also.

Her team did really well, they won all three matches and only had to play one three game match. Some of the games were close, but unlike other tournaments they managed to stay focused and finish off their opponents. Best of all in every game they played they looked like they were having fun. That was a really pleasant change for this team.

After the match the whole team went back to the Claim Jumper Restaurant where the coach paid off his bet with his players. The evening before he had promised his players that if they won all three matches that day he would bring them back there and buy them one of the giant mondo supersized six layer chocolate cakes that they serve there. The cake was big enough hollow out and sublet to a couple college students. It was delicious.

Big Chocolate Cake

Everyone there got a half a slice of cake, and most of us took half of it home with us. I think the coach still had enough cake to take home with him that the girls will all be having some tomorrow after practice.

The drive home from San Diego was definitely a contrast in environments. When we were in the restaurant some of the girls were talking about going down to the beach to play some beach volleyball, but when we walked out of the restaurant it was overcast in the direction of the beach and there was a sharp cold wind blowing. So we decided to wimp out and just head for home.

Ten miles up the road we were driving under blue skies


and enjoying all the wild flowers that were growing along the road sides.


For the next 2 hours I drove in scattered rain showers that varied from a light drizzle to a downpour so loud it woke up my daughter.

Then suddenly the rain turned white.


Then everything along side the roads turned white.


Then in just a hour further up the road we were enjoying a wonderful sunset and driving home under a mostly clear night sky.


Without a drop of rain or a flake of snow to be seen.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Oh Crap, I just turned 50.

Well other than being a little tired, probably because it is midnight and I am still up, I don't feel that much older.

The only thing about turning 50 that bugs me is that I don't get the food discounts at restaurants until I'm 55. If I have to be over half a century old I should at least get a discount on lunch.

Since my daughter and I have to leave for a volleyball tournament in San Diego tomorrow (I guess it is actually today now) and my wife has to go to Lancaster to bring her mother home from the hospital we won't be able to have a birthday celebration until later. Earlier this evening my dear wife and kids stopped by the end of my volleyball practice with a carrot cake to share with my players. They all sang happy birthday to me. Even though it was a day early it was a good birthday celebration.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mandatory No. 2

We played in SCVA Mandatory No. 2 on Sunday, March 9, at El Camino College in Torrance CA. We were the number four seed in our pool and therefore didn't have to play in the first match. So we left Ridgecrest at 5 AM that morning. With only one brief stop in Mojave on the way down we arrived at the college just after 7:30. This was a pretty pleasant trip, nice roads, not much traffic and other than some fog once we got into the LA area the weather was clear.

Going into this tournament I had been harping on our players to concentrate on the volleyball games and not spend so much time worrying or wondering about any extra-curricular activities that may have been planned for the day.

Unfortunately they didn't come to this tournament any more focused than before. I don't know if it is just their age, or what, but most of this team still thinks that club volleyball is supposed to be a social event. Meaning that you don't do anything without standing around for a half an hour talking about it first. Prime example was trying to get the girls out side the gym to warm up once we all got there. I called out to them and said "Ladies, lets go" and motioned for them to follow me. Then I walked outside, where I had to wait until they all eventually wandered out the door. Once outside they immediately circled up and started talking again. I got a couple of their attention and motioned for them to keep following me. Then I walked around the corner to the area I had selected for our warm-ups. Then I waited there for a couple minutes with about half the team wondering where the rest of them are. Finally I started the few girls that were there warming up and just added the rest of them into the group as they eventually strolled (while chatting together) over to where we were.

Our first match of the day was against a Bakersfield Club Jamba team. Watching the other teams in our pool warm up and play I had already decided that this was going to be our tough opponent of the day. Then half way through our first game I was starting to re-evaluate my decision. Our Starlings team started that game playing like a team who has finally come to a tournament to win. We were serving well, everyone was moving, and talking. Our passing was spot on and hit were dropping in also. We very quickly ran up a 20-13 lead over this team. Then just as fast as we started in this game, we stopped. We stopped serving, passing, moving, talking and spiking. Suddenly my volleyball team turned into 6 spectators to a very one sided volleyball game. We lost the game 23-25.

For the second game I tried to get my shell shocked team back into focus and playing again. But it was not to be. The second game was a complete repeat of the end of the first game. Except for serving. We did serve well that game. But since we were not rallying the serves didn't do us much good. We lost the second game 12-25.
Our next match was against a Beach Cities Volleyball Club team. We started out slow and static again, but fueled by a couple good service runs we managed to make the game close. Too close. We took a slight lead at 23-22 but then started reverting to our old slow ways. Several of my players seemed to sense that victory was in our grasp and really tried to keep the team moving. But we just couldn't put this team away. Eventually after several lead changes we lost this game 29-31. The longest game this team has played so far in their short history.

My players seemed to take this close loss personally and really roared onto the court in the second game. This game looked a lot like our first game. We started out playing like we were invincible. Then once we got a big lead we slammed on the brakes, stopped moving and let our opponents scramble back into the game. However, unlike the first game, this one we managed to end before our opponents mounted a full comeback. We squeaked out close 25-21 victory for our first win of the day. Unfortunately it was also our last.

The third and deciding game of the match was never close. We changed sides of the court when our opponents were up 8-2, we went on a mini run of points right after the side change, but eventually lost the game and the match 8-15.

After a one match break, we stepped onto the court to play what I thought was the weakest team in our pool. This team, called TCA, had beaten the Beach cities team, but and been manhandled by the Bakersfield team. We spotted them a 7 point lead to start the game, then actually started playing some volleyball. Unfortunately we were playing trade points volleyball. Finally down 19-12, one of my 7th grade players woke up and decided to start playing, from the service line. Using a wonderful mix on top spin and floater serves she fired off seven service aces to tie the game up. But once they finally managed to return one of her serves we were through. We lost the game 22-25.

That loss seemed to just end the day for my players. They stood in the huddle before the next game and were saying all the things you would want to hear them say. Unfortunately it was all just talk. Because once the game started there was only talk, no action. I used one time out early and struggled to find some new words to explain to them that they were not moving at all, and that just standing in place and reaching for balls that came near them was not going to work. But like the rest of the day they were either, not listening, not hearing, or just not caring. The continued to play their own special style of stand around volleyball until the game was over 11-25.

This one game win, 0-3 match record day was the worst day for us as a volleyball team. Unfortunately the blame for today must rest firmly on my shoulders. I obviously have not been getting through to these girls. So I am in the process of revamping my training schedule, and my practice plans. What we are doing is not working, so I have to try and find something that will. I have until 6 PM Tuesday night to do so. Wish me luck....

Friday, March 07, 2008

Now That's Just Wrong

I feel very guilty about just how funny I think this video is.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hawks and Doves

My dear wife and children always put out birdseed in the winter for their feathered friends that hang around here when the weather gets a little chilly. Mostly we have doves that congregate in the backyard and several little finches that like the thistle seed they leave in the front yard.

The downside of their kindhearted act is that our neighbor's cat which thinks of our backyard as his own personal litterbox and dove buffet occasionally goes after the doves there. The other preditor that seems to like the doves in our backyard is a hawk. Well the entire family pretty much agrees on one thing, we don't mind feeding the hawk, but we want the fleabag cat to stay the heck out of our yard.

This evening just before dinner was ready my oldest daughter was sitting at the computer when something thumped pretty hard into the glass patio window. I looked up to see what my daughter had thrown against the window when a second larger object also hit the window.

The first thump was a dove in full flight. The second thump was the hawk who seemed to have a lot more control than the dove. The dove stunned itself when it hit the glass, the hawk didn't. The result of this daredevil game these birds were playing is right here.

Hawk and Dove

The hawk sat there for a few moments kneeding his dinner with his talons. The dove was still twitching so we think the hawk was finishing off the dove as well as securing his grip.

We were going to watch the feast, but the neighbor's cat decided to get involved. It hopped over the fence and the hawk too off with his dinner. Which was too bad. I can't get close to the stupid cat, so I keep hoping that the hawk will take care of it for me one day. I would love to see this hawk winging his way across the backyard with the cat riding where the dove is in the second picture.

Hawk and Dove Leaving

The Dungeon Master Dies

E. Gary Gygax, the man who invented Dungeons and Dragons died yesterday. Rumor his it that he was not eaten by a red dragon.

I started playing D&D back in 1976. The original rules were published in 1974, by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. However my fellow gamers and I didn't waste much time on Gary Gygax's version of D&D. We very quickly bastardized several different gaming systems to make our own version of the D&D which we played all through college. Yes, I was a total geek in college, you didn't think I started acting this way just recently did you?

Once I got out of college I got a chance to try playing regular old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons the way E. Gary Gygax intended it to be played. I hated it. But for three years it was the only game in town because none of the gamers in Amarillo TX were willing to try the system my friends and I had used in college. So for three years I languished in Gygax hell.

When I moved to Ridgecrest I was reunited with one of my old gaming buddies and I immediately joined in the gaming group that he was playing in. Getting back to the good old system from my college days was like a breath of fresh air. Gaming was fun again. Then we discovered a role playing game called Runequest and we never looked back. We played role playing games every Friday night for anywhere from 5 to 10 hours.

During the 18 year period from 1976 to 1994 I suspect the only thing I spent more time on than playing role playing games was work, but only because I had to do it 8 to 9 hours a day.

In the early 90s things started changing around here. Many members of our gaming group moved away. We tried bring guys into replace them but they were too Advanced Dungeons and Dragons oriented. In order to play Runequest, or our old made up version of D&D you had to be willing to role play and to think. You couldn't solve every problem by killing everything that moved. After several years of struggling with Gygaxian gamers who were only interested in playing AD&D I finally gave up and quit the group.

This was a total cold turkey split for me. No 12 steps, no patches, no programs. I went home filled three boxes with every piece of role playing paper or information I owned and shoved them into the corner of the attic, where they languish to this day.

I should dig some of that stuff out some day. I may have a few books in there that could have some resale value. In the late 80s my gaming group and I went to the Origins Gaming Convention in Los Angeles. On a total lark, we all entered the AD&D tournament they were having. I decided to not take the game very seriously and was just trying to entertain the the other players at the table. I think I succeeded marvelously. By the time the tournament ended I had most of the onlookers giggling and muttering "I can't believe he said, or did that." Without even trying I finished up the tournament in second place. Later I was wondering around in the market room trying to figure out what to spend my winnings on when E. Gary Gygax put in an appearance. Immediately all my friends started insisting that I use my winnings to buy the latest AD&D book that had been released and then get E. Gary Gygax to autograph it.

I have never been a big fan of stars. I'm not a autograph seeker. In my lifetime I only ever collected a few autographs. I met Rory Calhoun in a restaurant in Rapid City when I was a kid. I got to meet George McGovern when he was running for president. I got to say Hi to Ken Curtis one year at Frontier Days in Cheyenne. I have a baseball signed by the Oakland A's team including Vita Blue, J Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. The only autograph I have that I really enjoy having is a hand written note and a signed copy of Chicago's Night and Day album, signed by Jason Scheff, the base player.

But in most instances I found that meeting some famous person to be kind of a letdown. They never seemed to live up to everyone else's expectations. E. Gary Gygax was no exception. I picked up my book and my friends shoved me over next to him where he was having his picture taken with one of the Convention organizers. As I held out the book, he glanced at me and snapped "I don't have time for autograghs." So I used that opportunity to try and escape what I found to be a very uncomfortable situation. But before I could shoulder my way through the crowd the convention organizer grabbed my arm and told Gygax, "Gary, you will love this guy, he placed second in the AD&D tournament and had everyone in stitches in the process."

E. Gary Gygax gave me a bit of a fish-eye stare, then snatched the book out of my hand, scribbled his name inside the cover and handed it back to me with a muttered "nice job kid." Then he walked away, taking the enormous crowd of admirers with him.

I went home, tossed the book on a shelf when it sat untouched until it ended up in a box in the attic with the rest of my role playing stuff. I don't even remember what book it was. I only knew it was a hardback AD&D book that I was never going to use to play games.

In the end I should say something nice about the recently deceased Mr. Gygax. I didn't like his game and I didn't like him. But he did create a game that got me and my friends started on a hobby that caused us to waste 1000s of hours over the years. Certainly I could have used that time to do more constructive things. But what the heck, I had fun. Sure it was geek fun, but even geeks are allowed to have fun occasionally, aren't they?

Monday, March 03, 2008


A couple more tests to check my ability to survive in situations that may happen any day now. Good thing I am prepared.


This information won't do you any good however, because when the zombies attack if you show up on my front door looking for help I will assume you are just one of the I-wanna-eat-your-brains crowd.


I have a nit to pick with this test. My answers exactly matched NASA's result except the last three items on the list which NASA thinks are "worthless" or "not needed". So I my score was down graded because I couldn't figure out which of the useless items I needed the least. But then again this is NASA, the same people that have not been able to get us out of low earth orbit for the last 25 years.

Should I be worried that I am apparently better informed on how to survive on the moon than in my own backyard. However, if the zombies attack on the moon, I'm all over that.

Booze Exam

I don't know whether to be impressed or depressed with the results of this test.


As a guy who doesn't drink much nor often, and doesn't drink exotic stuff I did quite well on this test. I have never tried over two-thirds of the alcohols in this test,so the results may be just be the result of a mind full of useless information that I will never be able to use to earn a living. The information certainly didn't come from personal experience.