28 August 2009

Michigan '09

Here's the epic update I know you've all been waiting for. Last weekend, I journeyed to Michigan to see my relatives again and attend my grandmother's 80th birthday party along with my father, Jim, and one of my brothers, Nathan.
We left Arizona early Friday morning with a US Airways flight at 7:30am. Since the airlines, in their infinite wisdom now charge for checked baggage ($15), we brought almost everything via carry-on, and only checked one bag for my dad's stuff. The flight was uneventful, since I'd brought 3 books along to tide me over: The First Patient by Michael Palmer, The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson, and The Secret of the Seventh Son by Glenn Cooper. I finished Seventh Son in the car that first day.
So anyway, we landed in Chicago O'Hare airport a few hours later, snagged our rental car, and took the 294 Toll Road out of Chi-town, through Indiana, and up into Holland, Michigan. We got to our hotel, the Country Inn and Suites, at around 5pm their time (2pm Arizona time), got settled, and then decided to go visit my grandparents and say hello.
We got there right around dinnertime, stayed for a short while, and then left to get some sleep before the party on Saturday. Back at the hotel, we weren't really sleepy, despite it being 9:30pm there (it was basically dinnertime for us), so Nathan and I decided to wander around the area a little while Dad relaxed. We were staying right next to Dutch Village, a theme park-slash-shopping center, complete with a large wooden windmill, several little Netherlands-themed shops, and Dutch dancers. Have I mentioned before that I'm 50% Dutch? And yes, I own wooden shoes.
Down the way, there was a place called Poker Zone, a poker room business, which I'd not seen before in Arizona. I was curious how they got around gambling laws, since usually that sort of thing is well-regulated. Apparently, it's done based on a division of the Michigan State Lottery, the Charitable Gaming Divison. A charity comes in for 3 days at a time and handles all the money transactions - the proprietors of the business don't have access - and it gets considered a "charity event" rather than a for-profit business. The house takes a maximum $5.00-per-hand rake, to be awarded by the charity at the end of the night, or in the case of tournaments, a portion of the money collected. That might be really fun to have here in Arizona... someone get on it!
The next morning, we were all up bright and early... ish to go over and see if there was anything we could do to help out. Dad and I ran some early errands for my mom back home, which included a trip to Dutch Village for pick up some goodies to bring back for us and for her class (which is studying the Netherlands this year): banket, a Dutch pastry; babbelaars, caramel candies (which are DELICIOUS); smoked Maasdam cheese; and Michigan cherry coffee.
At his house, my grandfather has a big, old barn which has stood for as long as I can remember, filled with tools and assorted antiques from his days working in the Michigan demolition field. Old license plates, scrap wood, antique tools, a few old books, etc. The barn's been a staple of his love of woodworking, and it's where I have many good memories of him from my youth.
Examples of his woodworking craftsmanship: he made the windmill, the fence, and the Dutch figures at the bottom (he and grandma are also skilled gardeners, having planted all the flowers you see in the picture in their garden):From left to right: Nathan, Grandpa, Grandma, and me in front of the barn:One of the things Grandpa needed help with was getting up to the roof to patch a few shingles. I'll be the first to admit I'm no carpenter, so my very handy brother was "volunteered" to go up on the rickety antique ladder (yes, completely made of wood) while I took pictures. Five minutes later, the roof was patched.The party itself was fun, and I got to see many of my family that I hadn't seen in nearly a decade: my uncles Jay, Ron, Mike, and Doug; my aunts Nancy and Carol (the masterminds behind the party setup and the food!); my cousins Danny and Chris (boy have they grown up since I last saw them!); my grandmother's four living sisters and husbands; and of course, grandma and grandpa. I didn't take many photos of the party, and my Uncle Jay should be forwarding me his sometime soon. But I did get this one: my cousins trying to build a tower to the roof of the garage out of a ketchup bottle, salt and pepper shakers, plastic plates, empty soda cans, plastic cups, wooden knicknacks, and one cheeseburger (they succeeded): Otherwise, it was part-rain-part-sun throughout the afternoon, so we mostly kept inside the garage area. I was somewhat disappointed not to have seen my other cousins, Callie, Megan, and Katie, but they were either working that day or were otherwise occupied.
That evening, I went and saw G.I. Joe at the nearby Star Theatre. It was okay. Nothing super special. Decent special effects, a passable storyline, and enough action to keep me engaged throughout the film. It won't win any awards, but it's rentable.
The next morning, our trio went out to Ludington, Michigan, about a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Holland to visit Ludington State Park, something my dad has to do every time he comes to Michigan. He used to camp there as a kid, and he still loves to hike around the Lost Lake Trail:Lost Lake:In some places, the water is crystal clear and as calm as glass:In others, kayakers and canoers come to fish or just enjoy the nice weather and cool water:Lost Lake also has two islands. This is one, with Nathan looking out at it pensively:The hike itself takes you around the lake, starting at a wooden bridge with no handholds, through the forest, and finally through a series of wooden staricases:Along the way, I did manage to make a few friends and play with the macro lens on the camera:Nearing the end of this day, we walked over to the Lost Lake Dam, where, below the coffers, fishermen gather to try to catch some of the big fish, like pike, salmon, and rainbow trout. While we were standing there, some teenager captured a 20-or-so inch Northern pike. The dam:

Monday and Tuesday were less eventful. We drove through downtown Holland to get to a fine goods shop my dad likes to visit to pick up miniature clocks (his collection), and played cards with my grandparents (we take our card-playing very seriously around my family... the game "3-13" can be a duel to the death sometimes)!

Before we left, we took a few more one-on-one photos with my grandparents, like the one below. Tuesday, we had lunch at Bob Evans restaurant, a last-day-of-the-vacation tradition among my family, and my aunts, Uncle Jay and cousins showed up to have lunch and say goodbye one more time before we took off. And long story short, we drove back to Chicago, hopped on the plane, and made it back to Arizona in time for supper.

26 August 2009

Musings of a Political Mind

"... I just flew in from Chicago, and boy are my arms tired!" (Bah-boom! Clash!) Dumb joke? Yes. But I did get back just last night from Chicago after flying out for the weekend to see my relatives and celebrate my grandmother's 80th birthday. A good long post with photos is yet to come on that one when I get the pics put on this computer. So to pass the time, I figured another politically-motivated blog post is in order. See, over the past few weeks, I've kind of been rehashing my ideological beliefs, not so much because what I believe is changing, but rather because I don't feel like my party truly represents my interests anymore. I've had long conversations about the misconceptions that the GOP is giving off, and I've lately been questioning the usefulness of the grassroots underground that the Republican Machine concocted. It really started when I was out having coffee with my friend Ryan (a liberally-minded Democratic Party operative) one evening not long ago and we got into the discussion about why he doesn't like the Republican Party. (I'll admit, this was more me egging him on about it than a real discussion at first, but it turned into a good eye-opener.) You see, Ryan is rather brilliant, especially when it comes to public relations, marketing, and messaging. So his opinions typically hold a lot of common sense thinking and a frank, this-is-how-it-is type of tone. "The Republican Party just doesn't seem to care," Ryan tells me. While the Democrats are busy putting pen to paper and trying to solve the world's perceived problems - healthcare, the pursuit of a greener environment, betterment of all mankind, etc - the Republicans are the party of "No." It's too much reform, it's too fast, it's change. We grappled with words for a bit, with me trying to persuade him that Republicans DO care. We want clean water, we want good schools, we don't like war, we want people to be healthy... but as a party, we DO believe that Democrats are moving too fast. The Pelosi Congress pushes bills onto the floor for a vote so rapidly that no one has time to read them and analyze their consequences. The Speaker closes some important bills, so that they may not be amended, and she shuts down the hall during recess when Republicans want more debate to continue. I started to wonder, though, as I was blithely spouting talking points (mind you: logically organized, well-thought-out, supported-by-facts talking points), do Republicans as a party really care right now? I mean, of course individually each of us does desire only the best, and I think that every person regardless of label would give of him- or herself if the situation presented itself to measurably help change someone's life for the better. But as a collective group... a whole... does the Republican Party care? It's one thing to say "we want more intelligent reform" on healthcare (or for those Freedom's Phoenix people to "Just Say No!"), but how do we tackle the problem of a flawed and failing healthcare system (or any other public issue) while simulatneously not seeming staunchly against all reforms on it? How do we silence the Uber-right wing libertarian and Christian coalition factions of the party in favor of leadership with the drive and the passion to work to come up with a bill that's actually going to do more good than harm, and who can articulate that to the average person? 'Cause I have to tell you, Ryan had it right on when he told me that he believes the Republican Party drives people away in bunches when they have to listen to the Ron Paul nuts and the small-yet-loud Jesus Freaks as the faces and voices of our ranks. I know I usually start considering switching to Independent when I hear phrases like "if it ain't in the Constitution, you can't do it." In my opinion, the Republican Party needs to show people why they care. I know somewhere (please?!) there's got to be a few Republicans who have a plan for reforming the healthcare industry intelligently, or who have a common-sense solution to illegal immigration. Maybe even a job creation or debt reduction idea which doesn't include spending more money than any other presidential administration and racking up more debt than all other presidents combined (if his administration were to keep spending at these levels for the remainder of an average presidential 8-year term). Where are those plans? Why aren't they being handed out to legislative districts, talked about at College Republican meetings, and hashed over at town halls? Why aren't state and local GOP leaders hosting referendums on common sense solutions? We have the grassroots out there, and people recognize good ideas when they see them. Does the Republican Party care? I hope so. But right now, it's a testament to Republican failures and shortcomings that the politicos of this country have only faith and hope to keep them loyal to the Grand Old Party.

18 August 2009

A New Year

Tomorrow marks a new year for me, and one I wish would never have come. I start substitute teaching again with a gig for the 2009-10 school year at a charter school in Mesa. Frankly, I had hoped that by now someone, somewhere, sometime would tell me that they liked my resume, wanted an interview, and wanted to hire me. I mean, I've only been networking and sending out over 1,100 resumes since March, 2008 for a job after college. I started my job hunt with a nationwide search for political jobs, and now I'm sad to report that I'm not only no closer to a job in the field which I love, I'm also having trouble finding anything even at a retail level. I've tried everything from calling in favors to making sure to show up at events to get my name and face out there to propective employers, to going to career fairs and seeking help from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. I've tried to market my way into the US Navy, Major League Baseball, Congress, the Arizona Legislature, PR and marketing firms, and grassroots work. I've handed out resumes at restaurants, grocery stores, office supply stores, big boxes, mom and pop's, theaters, equipment managers' offices, and gas stations. I've spoken to Chiefs of Staff, Vice-Presidents, hiring managers, HR operators, placement service representatives, and resume experts. I've placed myself on Facebook, LinkedIn, Career Builder, Monster, Jobing, Conservative Jobs, and Snag A Job. I've answered ads from newspapers, magazines, websites, billboards, sandwich boards, and notices on doors. I've felt happy, crushed, depressed, frustrated, distraught, crazy, content, understood, annoyed, and worthless. I've had jobs for one day, three weeks, and two months at a time, and volunteered numerous times. I've had people say that they'll call me back and never do, and others tell me that they want to help me, yet never take any actions. I've been both helped tremendously by my family, and yet also at times had my joblessness used against me by them, and I've been given enough contradictory and paradoxically confusing advice from friends, family, friends' parents, and complete strangers to last me a lifetime and then some (almost none of it very helpful). I suppose the gist of all this is just to rant a little bit and disassociate myself once more from a moment of weakness on my part for showing emotion at all about the subject. Isn't it funny how people always seem to assume the worst whenever a chink shows in your armor? Like right now, I imagine you're sitting there reading this and thinking to yourself "wow, this kid sounds rather manic depressive, a little bipolar, and slightly off his rocker." Fear not, dear reader, I'm actually perfectly calm, and I find it rather enjoyable actually to just let words flow from my brain into the keyboard and onto this screen. It's almost theraputic complaining online: no one to give you those sad, pitying stares; no petty conversation about how "the economy will get better, and you'll find something soon;" and definitely no more advice. I suppose it's a little paradoxical in and of itself that I'd be putting feelings like this into a paper-and-ink format, so to speak. I'm looking for a job, likely one that's going to require some knowledge if not expertise in social media and communications, and yet, I'm blogging about my struggles in the job market to the very people who are probably going to be reading this to hire me. I hope it's a characterization of my writing ability more than it is a snapshot of my mental frustrations. In reality, I'm a very loyal people person with a love of books, writing, and an appreciation for the finer things in life, such as the arts, fine dining, the semi-arrogant aire of 1950's high society. I'm old school conservative, closer to John Locke than to Ronald Reagan, yet not Libertarian enough to fit in with much of the pendulum-like extremes we see conservatives declaring themselves to be in today's world. I'm a hard worker, preferring the performance of tasks during the workday to idle chat and gossip, and I adore learning. I'm typically a team leader, a fast and accurate worker, and a decent typist. I get bored easily with overly repetitive tasks, but throw in a little variety, and I'm good-to-go. I love being outside, yet hate the heat of Arizona's summers, so give me either winter here or another state's cooler climes. And I am anxiously awaiting changes in my life to enable me to seek out some of the things I've been missing for 24 years, like a serious relationship, the ability to have my own apartment and car, and the opportunity to explore some of the things I enjoy as hobbies, like cooking, hiking, and writing. If I sound like the type of person that you need for your business, or you know of someplace where I might fit in, please contact me. My email is in my profile on the right-hand side of this screen. Until my next post, dear readers, I remain a bloodhound on the trail of the ever-elusive recession-bound job.

16 August 2009

Dodgers-Diamondbacks 8/15/09

Last night's game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks had a little something special for everyone in the crowd of 48,000 people. The stadium was packed for the intense rivalry game, which had featured, among other things, a couple warnings for hit batsmen and slides outside the basepaths in the prrevious matchup. Doug Davis was on the mound against Hiroki Kuroda. At first pitch, it was already a packed house:Doug Davis' first pitch (below) led off the game, but the Diamondbacks found themselves in a 3-0 hole after an error in the 2nd inning, a sacrifice fly, and a couple hits by the boys in blue.Thankfully, we were able to stymie Manny Ramirez, who went just 1-for-5 on the night with a couple strikeouts and an inning-ending double play. He also needs a haircut.So, while the Diamondbacks were well on their way to dropping the game to the Dodgers, I decided to wander the stadium, since I don't really do that normally. I typically sit in my seat and score the game, but my seat was near some loud and obnoxious Dodger fans with little screaming kids that they were letting do whatever they wanted. So I wandered.
It was 80's Night at the ballpark, and the Diamondbacks brought the stars out to interact with the fans. Mr. T and the A-Team were there in force, helping Baxter throw out t-shirts and posing for photos:Up near The Sandlot and Futures Field in the upper deck of left field, a few Stormtroopers tried to convert kids "to the Dark Side."Thankfully, Mark Skywalker was there to rescue them. Instead of the normal player backgrounds on the scoreboard during the players' at-bats, the boys in Sedona Red were posed in famous films of the 1980's. Among them: Mark Reynolds as Luke Skywalker:A few other favorites were Mark Reynolds as Superman (complete with a theme-song walk-up which really suited him), Stephen Drew as "Scarface," and Gerardo Parra as "Indiana Jones." In another section, the Ghostbusters were there making sure the ghosts of Chase Field were kept at bay. During the 6th inning "Pepsi T-Shirt Toss," the 'Busters' proton packs doubled as shirt launchers, which I thought was really cool!
Ghostbuster in front: "I ain't afraid of no ghost!"Unfortunately, amidst all of the hoopla of the 80's, a scary incident also occurred. The Dodgers' starter, Hiroki Kuroda, was drilled in the right temple by a line drive (link goes to the article and video) off the bat of DBacks' newcomer Rusty Ryal. He went down - hard - and he did not get up.They had to bring a stretcher out onto the field and load Kuroda up onto the medical cart to take him off to the hospital. The game was delayed by about 15 minutes, and you could see everyone was really worried. Ryal was escorted by manager AJ Hinch off the field to calm him down a little, and you could see he was totally shaken about the incident.Fortunately, subsequent news indicates that Kuroda is just fine, having suffered no fractures to the skull and all-around being very lucky. In fact, he was in the dugout for today's game and is flying home tonight with the team. That's really, really good news, since I saw it happen and it looked like he was a dead man.
Okay, so, that was in the 6th inning. Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth. The Dodgers lead, 3-1 with two outs left to play. Superman - I mean, Mark Reynolds - smashes a bullet to centerfield which whacks the batter's eye above the yellow line by 6 inches and bounds back onto the field. It's 3-2 Dodgers. A couple minutes later, this happens:A solo homer by catcher Miguel Montero - and a true "splash homer" at that since it landed in the pool on the fly - to tie the game at 3-3! Next batter up was Australian native Trent Oeltjen, who was given a very fitting background on the scoreboard:Unfortunately, he and Chad Tracy failed to get the job done, and ended the inning tied! The Diamondbacks nervously awaited the arrival of extra innings on the rail in the dugout (Baxter is standing on top of the dugout, dressed as a member of KISS):Bottom of the tenth, score still tied. Augie Ojeda singles to left field. Dan Haren comes in to pinch hit for Chad Qualls, and sacrifices Augie to second. Stephen Drew is intentionally walked. Trent Oeltjen also draws a four-pitch walk, which loads the bases with one out in the inning. That's when Gerardo Parra, he of the timely hits with runners in scoring position steps to the plate. The next scene:
Diamondbacks WIN on a long single to deep center field! I love it when we DESTROY THE DODGERS! A final view of the stadium at night. I LOVE Chase Field!

Obama's Retreat

Republicans, Independents, NPAs, and Democrats who opposed the liberal "public option" program in the President's healthcare reform agenda, rejoice. Because of the pressure American citizens have been putting on the administration in the form of protests at town halls and letter-writing/phone-calling campaigns, the Obama administration is backing off their plans to socialize healthcare through a government-run insurance agency. Instead, the President Obama is now trying to call for "cooperative" insurance plans, which I have yet to read more about and understand, but as it was explained in an MSNBC article about this subject, they would be consumer-owned non-profit corporations operating independently of the government, yet still function under a nationwide organization and provide more market competition to privately-owned insurers. I think it will be interesting to go to more town hall meetings and hear from our leaders in Congress about their take on a co-op plan. I know I will be looking forward to hearing about it from my Congressman Jeff Flake during his next town hall or tele-town hall. On the one hand, I doubt it will accomplish the far left's goal of insuring everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions or terminal medical treatments, so that could deter support from that side of the aisle. It also ignores one problem of the system currently, in that insurance cannot be bought across state lines. Under the co-op plan, even though the corporation is national, each state would have its own affiliates. Wouldn't it just be easier to open state borders to allow the purchase of private insurance? On the other hand, more competition in the market is a good thing, and a non-profit corporation is more likely to be able to help low-income insurance needs (which is one reason for the reforms in the first place, the other being economic stability over the long-term). I would still be very wary of having too much government intervention in setting up this co-op company with too many regulations or a political agenda. That's not going to do anyone any good. I think if they really want reform, the Pelosi Democrats are going to have to sit down with the rest of Congress and come up with real solutions, not the political manifestations of half-assed efforts.

14 August 2009

Town Hall Video

In the interests of disclosure, this video comes from "4409 Productions" and can be found at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1-qL6Pz2SM&feature=channel_page I said in my last post that I would link to this video when I found it, so here goes. While I don't approve of the healthcare insurance bill, I approve even less of people like this 4409 guy and his cohorts who attempt to score cheap points by evoking an emotional response from people and then claiming that's where they stand on an issue. First of all, it has nothing to do with debating the healthcare bill, and second, they make themselves seem moronic by twisting peoples' words around. It is this type of debate (if, in a civilized society one can even call what these Ron Paul extremists are doing "debate") which makes the Republicans in our party look bad, if for no other reason than we are stereotyped into being these people behind the cameras. Look for me at the very end, when the lady is trying to leave the area at about 5:15 in the bright red shirt. Just at the very end of the clip (5:39), you'll see me block the camera. Take this to heart, readers: debate the substance of the bill all you want, but allow those involved to speak their piece without ridicule as well, otherwise, you're no better than that which you are trying to dissent against. Attempting to score a few emotionally-evoked quips and out-of-context remarks (of which this video has many) is a sad and sorry way to make a point.

10 August 2009

Congressman Jeff Flake's Town Hall

This evening, I had the privilege to go and listen to my representative speak on the issue of healthcare reform, and to hear him respond to questions from his constituents regarding the 1,000-plus-page "America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009" (HR 3200), better known as "ObamaCare." It was actually kind of an adventure just getting to the event. After I made dinner for my family, I left the house at 5:30pm for the six o'clock town hall. I figured on having plenty of time to take the highway down to Val Vista and then cut south to Riggs Road to get to Basha High School. However, I had underestimated the number of constituents trying to also get to the meeting, and MapQuest didn't alert me that Val Vista, south of the 202 South is a one-lane road all the way to Riggs. So I was stuck in traffic behind some rather not-so-good drivers for nearly 30 minutes between the highway and the school - nearly double my time. However, I did finally get there, and I got a parking space up front (wasn't expecting THAT!) only to find:Yep, you guessed it. Because I was late (I got there at about 6:20pm) they had filled to capacity and the Fire Marshall wasn't allowing anyone else to enter the school's gym. The crowd standing around the gates was trying to inquire about whether or not they'd let people in later, or what to do, since they'd all driven a decent distance like myself. Here, Security stands by at the gate, JUST in case (you'll see why in a moment):The news vans were likewise out in force. I saw channel 3, ABC15 news, the Tribune newspaper, and others getting some B-roll of the crowd and talking with random supporters/dissenters. Then I got wind of something happening behind me near a fire engine that had been parked nearby. Apparently, an old woman in her mid-eighties or ninties had brought a homemade sign to the event which said simply, "I am the angry mob. No to Obama Care."Now, multiple choice time. Did the officer standing there: A) tell her to keep up the good work, B) tell her she was a true patriot, or C) tell her to get rid of the sign and threaten to arrest her and remove her from the premises if she didn't comply? If you answered C, you'd be correct. Apparently the Chandler School District has some sort of problem with political messages on their campuses, even when it's a public forum after school hours, when school is not in session for summer, and when the woman was exercising her first amendment rights peacefully and rather quietly. You know what happened next. Several other people (myself included) gathered around the scene and tried to inquire what the problem was, and why the "School Resource Officer" was being so stubborn. Of course, there were a few loudmouths, but when I tried to ask why the sign needed to be removed from public property at a public forum, the officer snapped at me and told me to "shut up." Not cool, man. So, School Resource Officer D. Woodard, I don't know why you found that nice woman's political sign so offensive (mostly because I got told to "shut up" when I asked rather calmly), and I don't know why the school district apparently has a problem with freedom of speech at a political forum (it's protected speech, after all), but I think you need to go take a couple classes on handling yourself more appropriately around people. Scary to think that people like him are trying to help high school students. So, after I was drawn away from that debacle because Congressman Flake's staff member Chad Heywood was making an announcement about the process for getting questions to the Congressman for those who could not get into the event, I got swept up in the crowd hovering around this scene:The two women on the right (one in blue, whom you can just see behind the woman with dark hair) and the three guys on the left and center (one in a a black shirt, the one with the big camera, and the one in the orange shirt) were getting into a nice shouting match with one another over the healthcare bill. Unfortunately, the scene was a big more than staged. The gentleman with the camera was from a group called Freedom's Phoenix, an extreme Right-wing (okay, more like extreme Libertarian) group that touts itself as "Reigniting the Flames of Freedom" and "Uncovering the Secrets & Exposing the Lies." The other two guys seemed to be his cohorts. Sadly, Freedom's Phoenix in all its fiery passion was only there to shout down opposition. The man in the black shirt was a big instigator in all this, not giving the ObamaCare bill's proponents a chance to speak, and instead asking the two women there to respond to quips and quotes from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ben Franklin, and the US Constitution. When one of the women would say "I'm not responding to one-liners that you're using as propaganda," the Phoenix members would yell to the crowd that they were calling the Constitution propaganda. That kind of thing. Unfortunately, those are the people who get "hired" to come to these events and make YouTube videos (which, when I find it, I will link to it for y'all to see) and give people like Nancy Pelosi ammunition to use against actual concerned citizens who attend these town halls as a means to share their opinions with their elected officials. Anyway, you could see the tensions flaring, and at one point there was name-calling (the woman in blue called some 17-year-old a "stupid b****" and later proceeded to hit the guy in black. So it's probably for the best that they ended up walking away from one another shortly thereafter. (I did kind of help in that. When the women walked away from the guys and the guys tried to follow, I asked a question and stepped quickly in between them. They kind of dissipated after that.) Finally, around 7:15 or so, enough of the original crowd had left the auditorium that our "mob" was allowed to enter. I caught the ear of the guy in black, who tried to argue to me that the women proponents of the single-payer choice healthcare reform shouldn't be allowed to speak because they were "spreading lies." I countered that the first amendment to the Constitution (which he was so vehement about making her answer to) didn't limit the right of people to speak just because what they said may or may not have been true. Sadly, his one-track mind couldn't seem to grasp that. Have I mentioned before that I value hearing all sides of the argument? Having one side shout the other down bothers me - especially if it's my party doing the shouting. C'mon, we're better than that! Once inside, I chose a vacant bleacher seat near the front of the room and snapped a couple quick photos before listening to the questions and Congressman Flake's answers. The crowd (a la 7:30pm):Congressman Flake listening intently to a question on the proposed bill's provision to automatically deduct healthcare payments from anyone enrolled in the system via electronic funds transfers from their bank accounts:His response to that question, that it's a scary part of the bill:The Congressman mentioned a few other things in the bill that I didn't know before, too. Here are a few more questions and answers that I jotted down while listening. Q: Do you believe that the Democrats will be using this bill as a means to an end to get everyone on a government healthcare system? A: Yes, Congressman Flake does believe that passing this legislation "will inevitably lead to [everyone being on] a single-payer system," if for no other reason than that a government system will eventually push out and supercede most other private systems, so to have insurance, you'll have to be on the government's rolls. Q: How in the world can we allow our children to have to pay for this down the road? A: "We are committing generational theft" with all this legislation, and our children will end up footing a hefty bill if the Congress doesn't stop spending. Q: How do you respond to the idea that the government will essentially be setting standards on who lives and who dies? A: The "government will have to ration either by costs or by services. It's a legitimate fear of many that the government will start to ration services." His explanation was more lengthy than I was able to take down in shorthand, but essentially, government has to be able to control costs somehow. When the government is forced to reduce spending due to forces like recession or what-have-you, it has two choices: either make people pay more for the same services, or ration services by telling some people that they cannot have some procedures. If you're a dying chronic alcoholic who needs a heart transplant, why wouldn't the government say that, well, golly, you can't have a new heart since we can't afford to pay for it and for one for patient Y, a healthy, wealthy philanthropist. You'd just abuse it anyway with more alcohol and unhealthy living, while Patient Y donates money to political campaigns. Other comments: don't give healthcare emergency care benefits to the 12-14 million illegal aliens in the United States, don't allow the government to use public healthcare monies to fund abortion, and to please talk to Senators Kyl and McCain about cosponsoring the Senate version of HR 1206 to audit the Federal Reserve. Perhaps my favorite line of the night came after the adjounrment of the town hall. Congressman Flake stayed behind for almost an extra hour talking with constituents, and someone eventually asked him what made him most upset about this bill (or at least, that's what I thought was said; it was kind of loud). Congressman Flake responded that the most upsetting thing about this bill is the mentality in Congress that "it's good enough for you, but not good enough for us (members of Congress)." I gotta say, I'm pretty proud of having such a caring person for a Congressman. Not many of the leaders I've had the privilege of meeting over my tenure in the College Republicans and as an intern/campaign worker/volunteer have been willing to go the extra mile that Congressman Flake does. In one of my prior positions, I found out that not only does Congressman Flake himself read the letters sent to him by his constituents, he responds personally, and signs thank you letters himself, sometimes by the hundreds. I can't tell you how often we got to use the signature stamp at the office of the last Congressman with whom I interned. I know I've complained about the Republican Party more than my fair share this year, and for good reason, I think (incidents like the Brett Mecum arrest and the inability of the Governor and Legislature to come to agreement on the budget come to mind). That said, Congressman Flake is the kind of kindred spirit of the average Joe in the position of a leader that I wish I could see more of in Congress. A final photo of the Congressman after the town hall, and before I got to say hello as he was leaving for the night:

09 August 2009

I'm On TV!

Every day except Sunday (no postgame/pregame shows), the good people at Fox Sports Arizona pose a question on Facebook, and solicit answers from fans. Sometimes the questions are really baseball related, asking about favorite players from certain teams or about fans' favorite ejection-related moment (AJ Hinch's first ejection the other night being the catalyst for that one!). Well, I was fortunate to quickly be able to capture the screencap below in response to the question "What living or non-living United States President would you most want to attend an MLB game with and why?" In reality, my full response was: "George W. Bush. He used to own the Texas Rangers, and I'm sure it would be fascinating to hear stories about his personal baseball experiences while attending a game. Maybe even a Rangers-Diamondbacks interleague game!"

At least they spelled my name right!

Other fun responses: Leiland Tanner: "Honest Abe... with his whole presidential stint basically entrenched in war, stress and strife, I think he could have used a good 3 hours of relaxation and pure DBACKS entertainment. Plus... I doubt anyone with bad intentions would be able to sneak up behind him down in the first row at Chase! R.I.P."

Ray Byke: "I'd like to have our Scouting Department take a look at the DNA of George Washington and possibly clone him to pitch. After all, didn't he throw a dollar across the Delaware River! I see him as a long reliever."

Arnold Moreno: "Bill Clinton, talk sports, girls, and have some beers. Talk to him about North Korea-not too many foreigners have been there in several years!"

Erika Tenney: "What about Jimmy Carter and G.W.B.? Jimmy can hook us up with endless peanuts and George can provide the entertaining play by plays."

Justine Saquilayan: "... A game with William Howard Taft might be interesting if we could somehow drag him out of his bathtub."

07 August 2009

Democrats Are Scared

I'm against the President and Congress's new proposed nationalized healthcare system. I just wanted to be up front with that from the get-go in this blog post. The proposal is dangerous since it forces every person to either obtain health insurance privately or pay a $1,000.00 fine for not having it. It fails to adequately provide medical care and benefits. You would end up waiting 6 months or more to even be seen by a doctor for diagnosis, then even more time to have any type of procedure done. In effect, the government would get to decide who lives and who dies based on their relative contributions to the good of society. That's scary. And other people have taken notice of the socialized medicine plans. Rallies at town hall meetings are popping up all around the country. And they're not happy rallies. So far, I've watched videos of a dozen or so protests at places like Sen. Chuck Schumer's offices in New York, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron, Ohio, Sen. Jim Webb's office in Virginia, and others in California, Washington state, Colorado, Florida, and elsewhere. They're not pretty. Some have ended in fistfights, others have drowned out the Members of Congress so that they cannot speak and end up getting angry themselves. And here's the thing: instead of the Congressmen and Senators listening to their constituents, they are shrugging it off as the "manufactured mobs" created by special interests. They're saying people are being "hired" to come to these town meetings and yell for a couple hours. Well, I'm sorry Nancy Pelosi (who has insinuated that those protesting are "carrying swastikas" - her version of calling the protesters neo-Nazis) and Barack Obama, even if a group is organizing the protest, the people in the group still must all believe there's SOMETHING wrong with your plan. Now, the Democrats are running scared. They're canceling town hall meetings in their districts in favor of controlled-setting "tele-town halls" - which is a fancy way of saying "conference calls" which are monitored by the member's staff who can regulate the questions being asked of the member. As you recently read on this blog, I took part in a tele-town hall meeting with Congressman Jeff Flake (who incidently IS still holding live town hall meetings while he is in the district, and tele-town halls when he is not), and I noticed two things: it would be very easy to control the flow of questions so only softballs get tossed, and two, there is no system for giving the Congressmen feedback. Protests are a strong form of that feedback, and on the telephone under controlled conditions, the message does not get pushed across. The scariest part of all is that now we've actually reached Orwellian tyranny in this country (think "1984"). The President of the United States called for Americans (via the White House blog) to do something about it:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.
The White House is calling for Americans to TATTLE on other Americans who say something which may or may not be true about Obama's healthcare reform push. For those of you who've ever read "1984": doesn't this sound a little like the Thought Police? It was dangerous in fiction, it'll be worse in reality. I hope everyone will take a little time and write or call their Congressmen/Senators and tell them what you really think of healthcare reform. Or better, attend or help organize a political protest at your local leader's office. In Arizona, that includes Rep. Raul Grijalva (Yuma, Metro Phoenix), Rep. Harry Mitchell (Tempe, Scottsdale), Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick (Flagstaff, Navajo nation, Kingman, Bullhead City, Prescott, Casa Grande), and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Tucson). If people don't write or call and let them know what a danger their party is putting this country on the path, we may yet see a world where "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."

05 August 2009

No-Hitter Minus One

Is it just me or are the Diamondbacks playing better lately? I mean, I know we're about 18 games outta first place to the Dodgers, and we're probably not going to make the Wild Card slot for the NL or anything, but if the last few days are any indication, we might be able to make things interesting with our final 56 games. For example, before the All-Star Break, we were at 38 wins, 51 losses. Since, we're 9-8, including four shutouts (three to the Pirates, two being back-to-back, and one to the World Champ Phillies). Some other interesting stats: Runs scored: Before ASG: 396 in 89 games. Since ASG: 86 runs in 18 games. Statistically, that's an extra run every two games. Runs allowed: Before: 434 runs/89 games. Since: 71 runs/18 games. That's almost one fewer run given up per game. A huge statistical difference. Team performances: Since the ASG, 41.8% of the team's hits have extra base hits (either a double, triple, or Home Run). During that time (18 games), we've collected 36 doubles, 7 triples, and 26 home runs. Our team's slugging percentage (the number of bases per at-bat) since the break is .508 (that means that we're essentially hitting a double in every at-bat since the All-Star Game). Compare that with before (.403) and we're really hitting the ball well lately. Then, of course, there are some nice individual performances. Mark Reynolds with A) the longest homer of anyone this year (481' at Chase Field on July 28), B) the longest homer at Citi Field ever (461'), C) two homers on his birthday on August 3rd, D) 3 spectactular catches where he dove into the stands just since the break. Or how about Yusmeiro Petit yesterday with a no-hitter through 7.0+ innings before giving up a walk and a single in the 8th inning. Even so, he still pitched a one-hitter and a shutout - his longest outing in innings pitched and in pitches thrown in his career. Or maybe Ryan Roberts with a career day yesterday with four hits and two home runs (big ones!) out to centerfield. Chris Young also hit a bomb yesterday, his seventh of the year and which hopefully will help break the slump he's been in. Miguel Montero deserves mention, with his new haircut. Since the ASG, Montero's collected 19 hits, four of them homers and five doubles, almost all in clutch situations with runners in scoring position or on base. I dunno.... maybe we're not gonna win any prizes this year, but it seems like the pieces are finally falling into place for this Diamondbacks organization, and it's really refreshing to see!

04 August 2009

Blogging for the Sake of.... Twittering?

This blog post is a test of the new auto-post-to-Twitter-update function for Blogger. Supposedly, when I publish a new blog post, people who have linked to me via Twitter (www.twitter.com/DBacks08) will see an update to that effect. Maybe in this way I can increase my blog's readership. Anyway, this is only a test.... if this had been an actual blog post, something different would be written here.

03 August 2009

Blogging for the Sake of Blogging

I wasn't really sure what I wanted to write when I signed into Blogger today; I just knew I wanted to blog something. Sadly, I doubt anyone actually reads this blog anymore - or at least, there's no one commenting on anything I write, no matter how volatile or long-winded it is. I suppose my life right now is more boring than I first thought. I do have one new idea I'm toying with, which would essentially be a political supplement to my personal blog. A friend and I are considering a "dueling banjos"-style website with commentary from both sides of the aisle. He's a Democrat, I'm a Republican, and we've been friends for years. I think it would be both fun and informative to start trying to shape myself into an opinion leader for the future on political and apolitical issues of today. So we'll see. If there are any requests on topics, feel free to post them in the comments section of this post, and I'll add them to my list. I also started a new book the other day, and I found myself quite unable to put it down last night, so I was up until 2:30am reading "Riptide" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They have a very intellectual style and tone to their writing, which I find stimulating (basically, I need to keep a good dictionary on hand when reading them, and for someone like me with a decent vocabulary already, that's saying something). The book itself is about a salvage operation to drain the Water Pit, a booby-trapped treasure hoarde off the coast of Maine supposedly commissioned by extremely nasty pirate "Red Ned Ockham." The tale uses as its basis the story of the Oak Island Money Pit, a shaft carved into the ground on Oak Island, Nova Scotia discovered initially in 1795. According to the legends, the prospectors dug down to discover a coverstone with coded writing on it which has been translated to read "Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds Are Buried." After plying up the stone and digging some more, they hit a wooden platform covering the shaft. They broke through it, and by the next morning, the shaft had flooded to the top with seawater. Since then, every attempt to pump out the water has failed, and attempts to dig adjoining shafts, bore holes, and seal or even find the cracks allowing water into the Money Pit have all ended in the failure of the missions, the loss of millions of dollars of investments, and in some cases, the deaths of the investigators. Some believe that the Templar Treasures, lost works of Shakespeare, or even the Holy Grail could lie beneath Oak Island. Is there a treasure? Who kows, but Oak Island remains one of the final big mysteries on planet Earth.

02 August 2009

Angels, Demons, and Ambigrams

After much patience and waiting, I finally saw "Angels and Demons" this afternoon. It ended up being a really good movie, better than "The Da Vinci Code" (the sequel novel to "Angels") and condenced nicely into a two-hour format with lots of action. The storyline was obviously compressed, but in a good way: just enough information for the viewer who hadn't read the book to get what was going on, and enough substance for the person who has read the book to appreciate how nicely they abridged the plot. I'm kind of tired this evening so I won't go into further detail, but let's suffice it to say that it's a movie I'd buy and recommend. The reason I'm sleepy is because I had a rather full day today, strangely enough. Yes, it's also 1am right now, but I did do a lot out in the heat today too. I woke up around 8:30am this morning, which in and of itself is odd for me; I usually sleep until 9:30 on weekends. But since I was up, I showered, got dressed, and made plans for my day. Dad wanted me to go get the oil changed in his truck, and I needed to return a few library books, so that was on the list. I also thought maybe Scott would be interested in grabbing coffee whilst I was out and about, so I texted him, but alas, he was too busy. So after getting my books together, I set off for the barber's to get a haircut, then the library, returned my baseball reference books and assorted novels, and checked out a Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child book which looked enticing - "The Book of the Dead" - and headed for the Jiffy Lube. Sat there for 40 minutes reading, then decided I didn't want to go home at noon. I grabbed a quick bite at Taco Bell, then drove out to the mall, where they have The Picture Show at Superstition Springs.... Seriously, $2 movies everyday ($1 on Tuesdays), and cheap popcorn and drinks? Fantastic! I can wait for the blockbuster films to trickle down for a couple months from Harkins and save $7.50 per ticket and $5.00 on snacks! I paid $5.50 today for what would have cost me $10.50 at Harkins for the same movie and a seat which tilts back. Totally worth it. By the time the movie let out, it was 3:00, and I went home for a while to catch some of the Diamondbacks-Mets game, but had to turn it off early because I needed to get ready to meet Ryan for drinks at Tempe Marketplace at 7:30pm. Went, bought a book for Mom at Barnes and Noble, Ryan and I chatted, and then I came home around 11:30 or so. And now, bed.