30 July 2010

John McCain Town Hall in Mesa

A couple days ago, a robocall from Senator John McCain invited me to a town hall he was hosting at Las Sendas Elementary School for this morning at 10:00am. Since that happens to be just a mile or so down the road from me, I decided to go and see what he had to say. I have to say that I'm pleased that I did.

I arrived at the school early, because I wasn't sure whether or not there would be a lot of people in attendance. At Congressman Jeff Flake's town hall back in August, 2009, so many people attended that they were not all allowed inside the gymnasium where it was held. I stood outside for an hour or so until they let more people in. This time though, I was by far the first person there and no one else showed up until about 9am. The meeting was held in the school's media center, a place I remember well as a member of the inaugural class of kids there back in 1996-97.

Instead of waiting outside, I "snuck" in and talked with the campaign staffers for a while. Pretty soon, the room filled up with what I would estimate as about 100 people. There were also members of the press there - a reporter from a local paper, a man from a TV station with a camera, and a man from the St. Petersburg (Florida!) Times. I was also asked to write myself down as "press" because I introduced myself as a local blogger. Cool.

18 July 2010

Thoughts on Etc

I figured I'd put up a new post today, but I don't know much what I want to write about, so these are a variety of random thoughts for your reading enjoyment:

First, Thursday through Sunday of this week, I'll be housesitting for a friend of my mom's in lovely Prescott, Arizona. She has a house with an amazing view of the city to one side, and of Thumb Butte to another side, and I'll be there relaxing in the pines while I watch the house-cabin and take care of her two dogs. I am looking forward to going to Half Price Books tomorrow or Tuesday and picking out some new reading material for the trip! Sadly, I don't really have any remaining friends in the Prescott area, so I won't have anyone to hang with if I do get bored up there, but I figure as long as there are pine trees and cooler temps, I may try to find some local geocaches and peruse the old shops in downtown while I'm there.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are back to playing now that the All-Star break has ended, and have promptly been swept (again!) by the NL West-leading San Diego Padres. We lost game one 1-12, game two 5-8, and today's game three by 4-6. There were two bases loaded walks issued by DBacks' pitchers, one bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, a run-scoring error by Mark Reynolds, a run-scoring wild pitch by Edwin Jackson, and overall poor defense and a lack of desire to win by the Diamondbacks. The only time I saw any animation from anyone during the series is when Evereth Cabrera of the Padres was picked off third base by Montero/Reynolds in today's game. Cabrera took a cheap shot on Reynolds and intentionally kicked him in the face after a rough tag for the out, but Reynolds responded with a half swing at Cabrera, prompting the benches to clear and Cabrera to run away like a little girl. Cabrera was then ejected for the cheap shot. Me, personally, I'm still waiting for the big brawl everyone knows is coming soon out of the Diamondbacks.

On the job front, I'm still trying to apply for purposeful jobs, though I shy away from jobs involving "closing," "marketing," "indoor/outdoor sales," and food service. I'm still trying to get to a point where I can find some good research or entry-level management jobs to apply for, but sadly with the economy, those are still few and far between. (If you are reading this, and have a political PAYING job, something in research, or something similar you need filled, I would sure love to hear about it!) I will, concordently, be doing more substitute teaching this year to get some pocket change while I look for something with more permanence.

I finished a really good book two days ago called "Too Far From Home" by Chris Jones. It's the story of the three astronauts who were stranded in orbit aboard the International Space Station after the Colombia shuttle disaster, how they coped with the situation, their experiences aboard station, and ultimately, how they got home. It's a somewhat dense book, and certainly not a quick read, but Jones' masterful prose combined with easy-to-understand technical details on the ISS and the shuttles alongside the emotional stories of the three men, their families, and the people at NASA and in Russia's Star City trying to bring them home, it's a book well-worth the time. I recommend it highly.

Anyway, I'll post something about the times in Prescott when I get back. Until then, loyal readers!

09 July 2010

No Job

Two weeks ago, I got an interview with the Arizona Tax Research Association, my first formal interview post-college, and for a group that I liked and actually wanted to work for. The job they were filling was a research analyst position, someone to crunch numbers and produce publications about tax policy in the state of Arizona.

I'll admit, I was nervous going into the interview because I had been jobless for such a long time and didn't really know what to expect. I was interviewed by Kevin McCarthy, ATRA's director, and overall I thought it went pretty well, although I know I could have done a better job selling myself - which I blame on nerves and my lack of confidence. I was told after the interview that Mr. McCarthy and his board of directors would have a decision by mid-July on who they wanted to hire.

I purposely did not tell too many people about the job prospect, primarily because I didn't want to get my hopes up too high for the job. Those of whom I did tell were all very supportive and promised to keep me in their prayers while I waited. I admit, though, I was excited and hopeful at the mere prospect of getting the job and being able to finally get on with MY life, move out of my parents' house, and get a car/apartment of my own. With about 1/3 of my life already over, assuming the average age of a typical male is 75 years old, it sometimes feels as if I'm wasting time without a job or any real leads.

Anyway, this morning I finally found out by email from Mr. McCarthy, who gave me notice of his decision without having to wait on a formal rejection letter, that I was not the person selected for the research analyst position. It was a bit disappointing, of course, but even though I was again not picked for the job, I know I should feel good about making through a pool of several hundred applicants to get to the interview and for being considered. Mr. McCarthy also said he would forward my resume on to some other people with whom I might be a good fit for a couple jobs, so I certainly appreciate his generosity in doing that on my behalf.

I told my close friends about the rejection after I found out this morning, and they were all very nice and supportive, for which I am grateful. Looking on the bright side, as I am always apt to do in situations like this (ha ha), at least I got some feedback on my job search, and to have it culminate in an interview and serious consideration for a good job is certainly rewarding. I only hope now that my good fortune here continues into the next few weeks and months of my job hunt and that something comes along that is an even better fit for me than ATRA.

Thanks for the well-wishes to all who have done so.

02 July 2010

The DBacks' Mid-Season Shake-up

Obviously, Manager A.J. Hinch wasn't getting things done. Back in May of last year, I posted about how Bob Melvin was replaced by then-Director of Player Development AJ Hinch, who, in his one year and one month as manager of a big league team posted an 89-123 win-loss record. This prompted the Diamondbacks organization to fire him and General Manager Josh Byrnes late last night. My phone was literally ringing nonstop with Twitter updates and text messages about the rumor mill surrounding the shake-up.

Obviously, right from the get-go, there was a lot of controversy surrounding "the Hinch Era" due in part to his never having managed a baseball game prior to replacing Melvin. Fans across Arizona wrote vile comments on the Facebook pages I read, the MLB news stories, sports web pages, on the radio, and elsewhere. Within the organization, I imagine they believed that Hinch would be a good choice because he had basically brought up our entire team (Reynolds, Upton, Webb, Drew, Conor Jackson, etc.) from the farm system, and knew them all very well. Sadly, the Diamondbacks have consistently failed to do anything right since Hinch began managing them. It was in retrospect a bad decision, and the DBacks are stuck with about $7,000,000 in contractual obligations to the two men over the next few years.

Last night (after the rumor sprouted, was confirmed, then reconfirmed, then triple-double checked to be sure it was confirmed... yes, I got a LOT of text messages) it was annouced that Diamondbacks bench coach and former Los Angeles Dodger Kirk Gibson would become the interim manager while Jerry Dipoto becomes interim GM (I don't know a lot about him, so I'll be trying to find out more in the near future). Gibson has been coaching with the team for the past few seasons, and while he too has never managed, his NL MVP Award in 1987, two World Series rings (1988 being his more well-known), and years of lower-level coaching experience make him an obvious interim, if not permanent, choice.

Just for kicks, here's an idea of how the boys in Sedona Red stack up in the majors this year (statistics are followed by the team's place out of the 30 teams in the major leagues in parentheses):

The Arizona Diamondbacks' batters have scored 362 runs (14th) on 675 singles (23rd), 157 doubles (5th), 13 triples (16th), and 94 home runs (5th) - two of which were inside-the-park HRs. They have garnered 1,140 total bases (7th) and amassed 353 runs batted in (10th). They have walked 295 times (6th) and struck out an incredible 724 times (1st in majors by 102 strikeouts). These totals give them an on-base percentage (times on base divided by times at the plate) of .328 (16th), a slugging percentage (measure of how many bases a batter gets per at-bat) of .424 (7th), and a team batting average of .251 (23rd).

Our hitters have also amassed 14 sacrifice fly balls (tied for 27th - last place), 17 sac bunts (27th), and have grounded into double plays 61 times (15th). We've been hit by pitches a mere 21 times (22nd) and intentionally walked 21 times (10th).

Our fielding skills, while improved upon from last year, still leave a lot to be desired: 750 assists (26th), 48 errors (tie for 18th), 8 passed balls (3rd highest total). We have turned 68 double plays, putting us in 19th place there, and are tied for 12th place with a 98.3% fielding percentage.

Obviously, if you've watched the team at all this year, our biggest weakness has been in our pitching, specifically the bullpen. Here's the numbers: in 697.0 innings pitched we have a 31 win (27th) and 48 loss (3rd highest) record, while pitching 2 complete games (tied for 15th) and 2 shutouts (tie for 23rd). One of each of those was Edwin Jackson's recent no-hitter, one of the only bright spots this year for the team. We've gotten 16 saves of 30 opportunities (tie for 24th) and have a team earned run average of 5.33 (30th, or last, place). Our pitchers have surrendered 767 hits (2nd), 446 runs (1st), 413 earned runs (1st), 105 home runs (1st), 299 walks (4th), and have hit 22 batters (21st) and struck out 542 (19th). We have 6 balks to our credit (tie for 6th), 6 pickoffs (tie for 8th), and 48 wild pitches (1st). With a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 1.53 (tie for last with the Pirates), we won't be improving on our winning percentage of .392 (28th ahead of only Baltimore and Pittsburgh) anytime soon.

Not good... hopefully Kirk Gibson and the team can start to salvage some dignity this year.