Archive: February, 2003

The volleyball curse has been broken!

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 24, 2003, 10:33 AM | comments: 0

I finally won a volleyball tournament yesterday, after three years of coaching J.O. I don't know what it was. Lots of second places, lots of wins against tough teams, etc., but I could never close the deal.

But last night, my kids did it, in their first tournament at that. They're not giants, I have no super-stars and individually, you probably wouldn't think that much of them. But as a team, they make things happen.

As I mentioned before, we run a swing offense, which for me at least has been a bit of an experiment. The theory goes that a team without giants and super-stars can compete against a team that does have those qualities. Well sure enough, it's true. They get it, and they can run it, even if it's not perfect yet.

The other half of their success comes from their ability to work together, with each other, with me and with whatever problems they encounter. They hit the huddle and they figure out for themselves where the problems are while I'm out filling in the lineup sheet. They aren't just athletic, they're smart enough to analyze and fix their problems.

Their success is everything to me. It's not just how it reflects on me, but how I feel about them. Since we don't have any kids of our own (yet), watching them grow and succeed is a little like being a parent, or at the very least, an older brother. You get that neat feeling inside that you've made some difference, and that the results lead to people who are better in some way.

So we've had a good start so far. Can't wait to see what happens as we go forward!

What the fuck is the US thinking?

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 3:33 PM | comments: 0

I'm absolutely amazed at the insanity of the world right now, especially our president.

First, at the top of the news, is this whole Iraq thing. Here we are, sending tens of thousands of people to the middle east to force a regime change in Iraq. We keep hearing over and over again how Iraq is producing "weapons of mass-destruction," but get little proof other than some vague photos of what, quite frankly, could be anything.

Now zip over to the other side of the world, where North Korea has missiles capable of reaching at least the western half of the US, and on top of that they want to fire up their nuclear program again.

Now I ask you, which is more dangerous to Americans? Am I overlooking something really obvious?

My feeling is that going after Iraq is purely a blood-for-oil issue. On the surface, I guess I wouldn't have that much of a problem with that, as it's an important natural resource for most of the free world, but it isn't being called that. Shit, tell it like it is, I can take the truth.

Of course, the problem there is we've totally lost our fucking minds on the issue of oil consumption here. Why has our use sky-rocketed? Well look around. There weren't SUV's in every fucking garage ten years ago. Because they're considered trucks under the law, they're not tied to the same fuel efficiency laws.

And how many fucking soccer mom's need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get groceries and drive the kids to soccer practice? That's what pisses me off. It's not about utility, it's about status. A fairly nice Camry or similar car gets 30+ mpg and does all the same things.

Every time I see a Lincoln Navigator I want to follow the asshole home, smack them in the face, and ask them why they need such a big ass car to drive downtown on highways.

Go ahead and fight your war for oil, but call it like it is, and do something here at home to curb the use of oil. Don't wait for the auto makers to finally deploy fuel-cell, hybrids and other more efficient vehicles on their own.

Next issue... the economy. I'll freely admit that I'm no master of macro-economics. However, I read an interesting story in Fast Company today about being happy and how it relates to money. (For those not playing along, magazines like FC and Business 2.0 were established in the rich dotcom era, as big as a Sears catalog with ads. Since the bust, circa summer 2001, the magazines are thin and they've resorted to talking about psychological issues instead of the economy.) One of the main points in the article was that many social things contribute more to be happy than actual money does (getting married is like making $100,000 more a year, in those terms).

Still, all we keep hearing about from Washington is tax cuts and other things that economist genius and Fed chairman Alan Greenspan says will not help do anything but increase the national debt. What American is going to spend more money now, especially just because they made more money or paid less taxes? Shit, if anything, what I've learned in the last two years is that my ass needs to start saving more.

We don't need a war with Iraq. We need smarter use of natural resources, healthcare regulation, a smart budget, stable social security, a balance of untrampled civil liberties and meaningful law enforcement, you know... domestic issues.

Unfortunately, polls suggest that Americans are fine to just go along with the Iraq thing. What a shame. Nobody wants to think about it anymore.

Prepare for total domination: The Volleyball Swing Offense

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 7, 2003, 10:44 AM | comments: 1

My volleyball team had their first real scrimmage last night, and they kicked ass. This year so far has been kind of an experiment because I decided we were going to run what's known as a "swing" offense. This is a big deal because it changes a ton of different things about the game.

The basic premise of the offense is that your hitters all approach from the middle of the court, and with that arrangement, can hit anywhere on the net at any time. The big advantage here is that you throw off the blockers and can match your strongest hitter with their weakest blocker.

To say the girls were skeptical of this is an understatement. They wanted to keep doing what they were used to: Set high and hit the ball as hard as you can. Well, as I told them, that wasn't going to get the job done at a 17 open level. Sure enough, they tried it on their own, and either got stuffed or had blockers touch the ball every time.

And what a difference it made when they ran the swing plays. The blockers would get a touch on the ball, but there was generally only one blocker, if any at all. Most importantly though, there was no outright blocking of our attacks.

At this point, they might still be a little skeptical, but they're also believers more than before. It also makes me feel vindicated, because it means my little experiment (not to mention my ability to coach an offense I've never done myself) works.

I'm very proud of my girls. They're positive, powerful and setting themselves up for success. I can't wait to see how the season goes!

It sure is fun to be me

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 6, 2003, 12:57 PM | comments: 0

Why the fuck are we conditioned to think that if we like ourselves, enjoy who we are, enjoy the lives we have, etc., that we're supposed to feel guilty about it or are considered self-centered and such? What kind of crap is that?

It's fun to be me. Seriously, who wouldn't like a little more money, to weigh a little less or whatever, but I've got a good life. I'm married to my best friend, I have a nice little house, I have friends with common interests, I donate to charity, I get to do stuff I enjoy like coach volleyball, music I listen to still gets me pumped up, and dude, I have a fucking snow blower.

Stephanie wrote something in her journal last night about letting go of the things about yourself that you don't like, just to enjoy who you really are. I got to thinking about that, and fuck yeah, that's the way to live.

I don't understand this insane notion that if you like yourself, one of the following must be true:

  • You're self-centered or conceited.
  • You have disregard for other people and think you're better than they are.
  • You don't appreciate what you have.
  • You're over-compensating for your flaws or insecurities.

What a load of crap that is. I know that I don't proclaim to be the center of the universe, I generally don't think I'm better than anyone (well, except for stupid people, anyway), I'm thankful for everything I have and I'll be the first to come right out and tell you what my insecurities are.

So where does that leave me? Am I to wallow in self-pity and humble reflection? Fuck that... I will not be some asshole who lives their entire life apologizing for who they are. Best case scenario is that I've lived one-third of my life at this point, and I'm not about to waste the remaining two thirds feeling sorry for myself or thinking I'm not good enough for something.

Now of course, the irony in taking this approach to life is that you do think you're better than people who do not, but that's not really my problem, is it?

It's fun to be Jeff Putz.

Losing another Space Shuttle, and more astronauts

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 3, 2003, 10:07 AM | comments: 0

I was in seventh grade when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after lift off in 1986. I was sitting on my life science class, just prior to the tardy bell ringing. Our teacher, Ms. Smith, a seemingly evil woman who had a strange charm to her as well, was not in the room.

The bell rang, and she came in a few seconds later. This was very uncharacteristic for her to be late. As she came in, she had a very serious look on her face. I can still see the expression on her face, and hear the tone of her voice.

"The Space Shuttle... blew up."

At first, what she said didn't make any sense. It was too illogical to comprehend. The Shuttle was the pride of American science, and it certainly wouldn't just "blow up." Five years earlier, in second grade, I watched with my classmates as the first shuttle launched. Like a lot of other kids at the time, I was in love with the space program.

I still have the local newspaper from the day after Challenger. I remember thinking at the time that there should be a renewed sense of purpose for the space program. There's something about space flight that captures the imagination, beyond the practical science experiments and thirst for knowledge. It's just something we need, to continue moving forward as a civilization.

Saturday morning, I stopped in to check CoasterBuzz to see how the new site was doing. That's when I saw the forum topic, "Space Shuttle Columbia EXPLODES!" The first reactions in my head were exactly the same as those I had in 1986. The difference this time was that, thanks to the Internet, I could immediately overload on information.

To say I was bummed out is an understatement. I mean, it doesn't have the impact that, say, 9/11 had, but the Space Shuttle was something very near and dear to me during my childhood. While I never followed that path to try and be an astronaut, I've always championed the program.

The data is coming in, and again the questions begin to mount. Regardless of the outcome, what hurts so much this time is that they were so close to being home.

My hope is that the program will continue, NASA will get the funding they need and the American space program can once again be a triumphant example of what we're capable of.

God bless and look after those we lost, and their families.