Archive: December, 2003

Obligatory year-end reflection, 2003

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 31, 2003, 10:17 PM | comments: 1
These fucking new years keep creeping up on me faster and faster. Not to steal my dearest wife's idea, but here's my take on the year that was 2003.

I had some pretty special travel this year. Las Vegas was incredible (even for 36 hours), Orlando was sunny again, got to the usual volleyball and coaster destinations, but never got back to Kauai as we planned.

I turned 30 this year. It stressed me out a little, but when Steph threw the ultimate party with the ultimate gift, I realized that I've been touched and influenced by so many good people, and hopefully I've done even a little of the same for them. I've had an incredible life so far, and I'm only one-third (at most) of the way done.

A roller coaster event turned tragic, but only reinforced the fact that you never know when it's your turn to go. That simple idea was lost on a community that becomes more embarassing to be a part of every year. I love my hobby, I love having a Web site that relates to it, but some days it's so hard to realize that a few morons don't represent the community as a whole.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the place that work has in our lives, as I've watched Steph do the same. The job that left me feeling empty all of the time finally let me go November 1, and I let it go soon after. For two months I've been happy, thinking about the options, and what it means to work for someone else. The conclusion is that it doesn't have to suck, and I can in the mean time sharpen my skills to make self-employment a reality. In the mean time, I have a new job that pays 50% more than my last one.

Eating and health is becoming more and more important to me. It's a hard adjustment, but I realize that I don't treat my body right. I've never considered myself fat, but it's clear I need to change my eating habits, and I've lost eight pounds since Thanksgiving. Now I need to eat right (not just less) and stick to regular exercise.

I've come to realize that technology excites me more than ever, and I think about it a lot. With that excitement I also recognize the need to just get the hell away from it from time to time.

I realized that friends come and go. Actually, I've always known that, I just forget sometimes to cherish and celebrate the times we had. Whether it's my best man that I haven't seen since my wedding day or newer friends I haven't seen in a couple of days, I've had real human encounters with them, the memories for which I'll always have. Some of those relationships will endure, others will fade away, but there are still hundreds of new ones to come.

Some friends turned out to be hopelessly lost in their own immaturity, others have grown up. Some of my past volleyball kids have gone on to do incredible things in their post-high school lives, others have done nothing. Steph made some friendships closer, while I've let mine become distant.

Most important is the ongoing discovery of how much I love my wife. After three years of being married and nine since we met, it never gets old. Every night when I get into bed I remember how lucky I am.

I was watching the news tonight, and ABC News had a ten-minute segment that kind of looked back at the year, in an historical context. There has been so much pain and suffering in the last year. Hundreds of our children were killed in battle, thousands of Iraqis were too, all for a war that was justified by three premises that have since not been true. Combine that with all of the natural disasters and other tragedies and I very nearly wanted to cry. The ins and outs of my life seemed unimportant in the shadow of a sometimes ugly world.

All of these images made me remember a time, a time only a few years ago, when I was so optimistic that I could change the world. The world hasn't so much beaten me down as much as it has given me little reason to hope anymore.

But while in Orlando, we saw the story on TV of the little girl who was attacked by a shark, in of all places our beloved Kauai. The 14-year old girl lost her arm, and she was destined to be one of the world's greatest surfers. When asked if she'd ever surf again, she smiled and said yes.

If a 14-year old girl can have that kind of optimism, there's no fucking reason why any of us should ever sit around and bitch about our lives. We can all make our lives something extraordinary... we just need to hang on to hope.

In 2004, I plan to hang on to my hopes and dreams. What will you do?

The magic of DVD collections

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 28, 2003, 11:33 AM | comments: 2
We got a couple of great DVD collections this Christmas. Stephanie bought me the Indiana Jones box set. It's amazing how good it looks and sounds since being remastered. The Indy movies are probably some of my favorites of all time. Indy always seemed so bad ass to me in more of a genuine way than any of the other heroes out there at the time. Hell, I even used "Jones" as my radio name.

The special features are neat because they dug up all kinds of old crap and combined it with current interviews of the actors, as well as Lucas and Spielberg. Raiders of The Lost Ark was in particular a pretty serious technical achievement for the time.

I bought Steph the Alias first season. It's interesting how I got drawn into that show. Prior to the airing of the pilot, ABC did heavy advertising for the show, especially billboards, that had little more than the title and Jennifer Garner in the bright red hair that she used to get out of the country in that episode. I thought that was pretty hot, so I watched the show.

As it turns out, she's pretty hot all of the time, which is weird because I'm not usually into the athletic types. But she kicks ass and you really can't help but feel for her character. She plays it in such a way that her soul is obviously a good one, but she's surrounded by all of this darkness and evil at all times.

What amazes me about the show, now in its third season, is that the writing is obviously fleshed out in a general sense at least a season in advance. They haven't yet written themselves into a corner in the way that other shows have (Dark Angel and La Femme Nikita come to mind). There's always a bigger picture, and when you see that picture, it absolutely blows you away. I hope the show continues a few more seasons.

Personally, I'd like to get the first two seasons of 24 as well. That's the other show I'm hooked on, but God only knows when I'd have time to watch all of that. We have all of the released Futurama episodes, and we have the first Family Guy set. We have the entire Robotech series, but haven't cracked open any of the episodes beyond the Macross saga (it's hard to watch a lot of Japanese anime in short periods of time).

Why high school athletics suck in Ohio

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 23, 2003, 2:31 PM | comments: 2
This has me so pissed off I don't know where to begin.

State regulations spike players' chance at camp

The OHSAA has been a pain in the ass for far too long. These assholes in Columbus are so backward thinking it's disgraceful.

I've been to the High Performance tryouts... they're insane. The best of the best (with honors, sir!) show up for these things and get to experience volleyball at a level they can't get anywhere else. Thanks to the state's fucked up rules, they can't go to this camp.

It's not the only stupid thing they've done. Not more than three kids from the same school can play together on the same club team either. That's stupid for older kids because at that point you know what your varsity teams are going to be like, and it's stupid for the younger kids because the opportunities to play club far outnumber those at the kids' schools.

And then this bullshit they say about "protecting" the kids from "exploitation?" Give me a break. Since when do we not allow kids to do the things they're interested in? That's insanity. We should be thankful that they want to do anything that isn't drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex.

These kids get further screwed because these are the kind of experiences they need to perhaps land scholarships. Are Ohio kids doomed to miss out because of where they live? That's stupid.

But what do you expect from the OHSAA? This is the organization that has been putting off adopting the newer rules for volleyball for years, and it shows. Club volleyball, organized under USA Volleyball and our Ohio Valley Region, is getting to be much bigger than high school volleyball. It's already more competitive. You can't even compare.

If I had limitless cash, I'd step in and sue the shit out of the OHSAA to see to it that these kids could go to the camp and retain their eligibility. The truth is, it will only be a few more years until high school volleyball plays second to club anyway. We'll show them!

Michelle Branch has an attitude

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 21, 2003, 11:18 PM | comments: 4
Call me a dork, but I really dig Michelle Branch. I'm all about girls who can play guitar. Her second album was significantly better than the first (more angry and grown up).

She's the cover girl on Maxim this month. She's very girl-next-door, only all airbrushed up. (Note to Maxim: There comes a point when it's too much and women look like they're made of plastic. Playboy has been making this mistake for decades.) She has a couple of tattoos too, which is cool.

The problem is that she's got a bit of an attitude. Not bad, per se, because I'm all for speaking your mind, it's just she says things from a very young perspective. For example, she pretty much disses Jewel for taking a bit of a dance direction in her last album. I was wondering, as an artist, if you were Jewel, would you want to make Pieces of You Part 4? I sure as hell wouldn't.

She also dissed Jewel for licensing the song in TV spots. There's the real sign of a mature musician though. If you're old enough to know better, you know that getting paid beats being hungry because of your fierce integrity.

I still like Michelle, and she's still on my short list of celebrities that I find attractive, but I wish she'd be a little nicer to other artists.

Oh, we share the same birthday. I'm exactly ten years older than her.

A decade of music playlists

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 18, 2003, 1:07 AM | comments: 8
I decided since I had most of my CD's ripped for the iPod, I might as well make some time capsules of sorts. It's a little tricky in the college years because while you're in school you think in terms of academic years, but it's close.

Here's the list, 1992 through 2003.

My tastes have been all over the place, but if it wasn't obvious, I've been hungry for more since about 2000. I can explain that. First we lost our good radio station here in Cleveland, and then in the following years the record companies only promoted "me too" bands, what started as the "Limp Kornsmack" bands. Since then there have been so few real breakouts that got enough exposure for me to be exposed to.

I think when I start working again I need to break down and by XM radio for the car, especially since my two greatest leads right now could mean a longer commute. At least with XM there's a bit more variety.

The success of Queer Eye

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 17, 2003, 10:47 AM | comments: 5
You know, when you hear about a show like Queer Eye for The Straight Guy you've gotta immediately assume that because it's going to have a bunch of gay guys in it that it would automatically be controversial and a cause for great stress among conservatives.

But have you noticed that you won't hear a single negative thing about it? I mean, I can't think of even one instance where some far right lunatic has gone on TV and slammed the show. In fact, I'm willing to bet it would be a sort of political suicide to do so.

Why? Because for one thing, the fact that the guys are gay isn't so much a novelty as much as it's just what they are. They're real people, and there isn't anything about them that you wouldn't like. For another thing, what they do and what the show stands for is something we all enjoy seeing: Good things happening to good people.

That's the core premise of the show. With so much shit in the world, this show is only about making better lives for people. Even if it is in some ways material, people feeling better about themselves is so important, and it feels good to see people get that. I watch every week.

Fat-bottomed girls you make the rockin' world go 'round!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 16, 2003, 12:04 AM | comments: 3
Steph and I were watching some Fox Christmas music special tonight and she asked me if bootylicious girls were coming back into style in favor of twigs. I think the answer is yes.

I should be clear to include girls with wide hips or who are otherwise generally curvy in some fashion. We seemed to go through a phase where movie stars and models all had the body of 9-year old boys. No hips or butt. While you always read about how this was creating poor body image for young girls, I think most dudes were like, "Uh, that's not attractive."

Because the truth is, I think dudes go more for girls with butts that stick out, hips that are wider than their shoulders, and a little bit of a pouch in the front is all good too. So when you see a TV show like that where Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson get up there and show their stuff, it's a good thing. Show off your curvy parts, ladies!

People were getting all over Christina Aguilera because she put on a few pounds. Frankly, I never though she looked better (and not just because I dig black hair and piercings either). She was one of the worst offenders when she started out. No hips, no butt. In all fairness, I think a lot of that had to do with her just growing up (remember people thought Britney got implants, when in reality she had just matured to that point).

Christina has lost a lot of that weight again, but she retained the hips and butt. That's what it's all about. Anorexia has finally gone out of style, and the world is once again at peace.

Capturing Saddam: So what?

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 15, 2003, 12:01 AM | comments: 8
I found out rather late today (purposefully staying away from the Internet and TV) that they captured Saddam in Iraq. You would think that it would be a big deal, but honestly, what does this really change?

The pundits are saying that it will reduce terrorism in Iraq, but that's nonsense. The people who are blowing shit up and shooting at our boys are opportunists who don't give two shits about whether or not Saddam even exists.

It also doesn't the change the fact that there were three major reasons to go to war, and none of them have panned out:

  • The infamous weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be found.
  • Ties to al Queda which the White House has since said was bad intelligence.
  • Use of chemical weapons against his own people. That happened before the first Gulf War, and we didn't finish the job then. Why now?

So hundreds of our people (not to mention thousands of Iraqi civilians) have been killed for what? In the midst of domestic problems and ridiculous debt right here at home, fucking up a country just because they don't meet our ideals is not a really good idea to me, and it's worse since the justification has, so far, been all lies.

I guess what really gets me is seeing all of these stories on TV about the lives of those who died over there. The family members and neighbors talk about how they died for their country, but is that what they died for?

Our role in international affairs is certainly not a cut and dry and easy to digest issue, and I understand that. However, there comes a point when we have to start looking at the return on investment. Spreading our ideals and values is not worth paying the high price of our sons and daughters.

On families, stress and living your life

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 11, 2003, 11:16 PM | comments: 2
This year in coaching my girls, I decided to preach that concentrating only on the things that you can control makes you a better athlete, and more mentally able to improve your skills. It's really a good philosophy to spill over into everyday life too, I think.

The last month or so has been kind of rough for us. Oddly enough me not having a job really hasn't bothered me or caused any significant stress at all. Our families have been a source of stress though, but it comes at you from a couple of different fronts.

At first, you think about how terrible the problems are on behalf of the family members, and because they're your family, you too feel bad about it. Then you feel stressed because even though you don't want to admit it, you feel guilty and selfish that your family puts these problems on you as well.

It's strange, because my grandfather said last Christmas that family was the most important part of your life. While that might be true, I'm tired of feeling guilty for thinking that it's not. I realize that so many of the things that I don't like about myself or my personality are rooted in issues with my family. I never had the security and comfort in my family to feel that it was a unit I could rely on or go to in times of need. I didn't find any of that until college, ultimately starting my own family with Stephanie.

I know a lot of people will tell you, "Oh, but that's every family." I think that's a cop-out bullshit statement. Some of the kids I've coached have these great relationships with their families. Hell, I'm astounded that this year none of them even come from divorced families.

The more I talk about it, the worse I feel, and that's crap too. I didn't choose my family.

But I'm going to try and not let it stress me out. I can't control my family. I can't control the past. I only need to concentrate on my new family, even if it consists of little more than my wife and two cats. They make me happy, and I'm not going to feel bad for prioritizing things that way.

First volleyball practice

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 8, 2003, 5:07 PM | comments: 0
I had my first volleyball practice yesterday. I can't believe it's already time to start again. This marks the sixth year I've coached.

My initial reaction after tryouts is that this will be an incredibly strong team. I still think that, but the real test in the short term will be whether or not they have the right attitudes. So far I feel good about it. There's one girl that I think has some confidence problems, but we'll work on that. Other than that, I've got a lot of big bangers, and if they can successfully execute my offense, look out...

Coaching for me has always been about building relationships and helping to shape kids into better players, and by extension better people. However I also have this selfish agenda too... I really want to go to nationals. I don't know what it is exactly, but I guess in some ways it would be some kind of external recognition that I know what I'm doing. That's ironic because I teach the kids to not worry about things they can't control, and I certainly can't control who shows up for tryout and how good they are!

So far so good... first tournament in March.

My name is Jeff, and I'm a pop music tool

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 4, 2003, 5:08 PM | comments: 9
Ugh... you know, you try to maintain some kind of integrity when your list of favorite bands includes Garbage, KMFDM and such, but some of today's pop music is just too damn irresistable to ignore.

The worst example of this is the new Britney Spears record. It's a damn good album, at least half of the tracks being top notch dance/pop music. I mean, it's above average. I hate myself for liking it, but what can I do?

There are other pop artists I've liked, but they're people who'd be on "alternative" radio back in the old days, like Jewel or Michelle Branch. You tend to give them more credit because they write their own stuff, but now that Britney is at least half-writing, it's one less thing you can get on her about.

I'm so disenchanted with pretty much everything else. Rap sucks except for perhaps Outkast, mainstream rock has too much dick, and electronic music lacks someone like The Prodigy to show everyone how it's done.

Could be worse I suppose... it could be country!

So many realizations in such a short time

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 1, 2003, 5:53 PM | comments: 6
I had a lot on my mind last night when I went to sleep. I couldn't get comfortable because it was kind of warm in the bedroom, and then I didn't want to shuffle around a lot and wake up Stephanie either. After a whirlwind day where I did all kinds of stuff (pay bills, ship some stuff, get us lunch, diagnose a problem with the pinball machine, apply for some jobs, etc.), I finally have a moment to process last night's thoughts.

First off: Diet. I eat like shit, and I know it. I'm trying now to stick to a diet, which is proving difficult in day 2 because I need soda so badly, but I should be OK. The problem lies in two areas: I'm only a few pounds from being visibly far too over-weight and I don't eat the things I should, like vegetables. Certainly cutting back is what I might have attributed the difficulty to, but it's actually a much deeper problem. Eating right is admiting that I've been doing it wrong for a long time, and I hate to be wrong. It's a complex I got growing up, because I was never allowed to be right around my step-dad. The edge I have in this battle is that at least I know the root of the problem.

Then there's the purpose of life in terms of having a job. It occured to me last night that the troubling thing about not having a day job isn't about the money. Since this time around I'm not going to starve any time soon, it has cleared my mind and made me realize that it's really about being a vital part of something, whether that be a team, a community or just a simple social circle. That came to me when I realized that being a part of volleyball, as a coach, is about the social aspect, and not so much about the game. That's what made me realize I wanted to coach another year, where money is already not the issue.

And that leads to the next issue of family. Now that I'm older and wiser, I feel like my family life hasn't been very fulfilling, probably for the last decade or more. My most satisfying family life has been with my dearest wife and the times we share together, with our friends. Every single day I'm astounded at how much I love our little unit, me, Steph and to a certain degree the cats. Then there are our closer friends. We don't have many close friends, but those few relationships are worth more than thousands of simple acquaintances.

The idea of family then leads to the issue of children. We've waited because we've just never felt the time was right, or that we ever needed to have kids at all. But as time rolls on, there's this part of me that wants a child, a little girl. I'm not sure what my hangup is that I want a girl and not a boy, but I guess it's because I crave the kind of relationships I've had with kids I've coached, only on a deeper and permanent level (that and I can't stand teenage and pre-teen boys, they annoy the piss out of me). The kids I coach come and go, but a daughter is forever. Regardless, I'm not in a hurry about it, but I'm starting to understand why I want it.

That's a lot of deep shit to think about at one time. That's what keeps life interesting though, because I think you eventually die still not having totally figured things out. That might scare a lot of people, but to me it's comforting.