Naughty referees, Washington, and sending the “wrong message”

October 23, 2010

Though I do spend a certain part of my time working in athletics (announcing, timing, scoring, etc), I rarely post on high school sports, but this caught my eye.

As hopefully most of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  As a part of that, and as a part of the mission of schools to teach a little about compassion, and philanthropy, a great many schools across the nation are raising money for breast cancer charities.  My school was no exception:  we sold pink t-shirts, declared our last home game of the year a “pink out”, and encouraged everyone to wear pink.  Our dance team wore pink costumes …. the cheerleaders wore pink bows, and even the football players got taped up in pink and wore pink wristbands.

In Washington state, the referees got into the act too … many of them not only donated their weekend’s checks to the Susan G. Kormen Institute (if it is like Illinois, a good referee can easily make $200+ in a weekend), but went out and got pink whistles.

Apparently, the Washington Officials Association, the group responsible for overseeing athletic officials in Washington state, has deemed that this act is worthy of discipline;  that means two week suspensions for the playoffs.  That amounts to another $200-$400 … oh, by the way, since we are into the playoffs in high school football, that means calling up lesser officials for the games (if Washington state has a merit system for assigning referees in state playoff games.

The chair of the officials’ association is quoted as saying:

They chose not to ask for permission, not to go the right route, …. It sends the wrong message to kids that are playing the game. ‘If they broke the rules why can’t I do the same.’

I think the more important mention that it sends is:  “Don’t you dare ever think of violating minor, inconsequential rules while doing something that sets a good example for young people, by demonstrating compassion for others and solidarity with those who are suffering … something that schools are actually trying to teach.”

My school has a dress code.  Teachers are not supposed to wear t-shirts. I didn’t ask permission (nor was it granted) when I wore my pink t-shirt all day … because I know that my administrators actually use their brains, and realize the value of doing something like this.

I hope the people in charge of officials in Washington grow a brain and realize that some rules should have common sense exceptions, and that permission needn’t be asked in advance for them.


Ironically, this too defies simple explanation

October 23, 2010


I don’t understand how no one ever came up with this?

Good riddance!

October 23, 2010,cabrini-green-102310.article


Ever since I was a little kid, going in to downtown Chicago meant catching the Dan Ryan at about 111th Street and heading north … my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles would tell me about growing up in Chicago, and how much the city had changed for the worse.


As we approached Comiskey Park at 35th Street, you could see the enormous high rise apartments, almost all of them on the east side of the expressway.  From the distance, they didn’t look bad, but I was told these were the “high rises” … over time, I came to understand that what had been an interesting idea:  provide affordable housing for soldiers returning from World War II, quickly descended into low cost housing exclusively for the poor.  Under a variety of plans, more buildings were added to keep the poor (read:  African-Americans) in one area.  Since poverty was rampant, the accompanying problems:  substance abuse, gang activity, murders, etc followed.  The high rises were notorious by the 1970s, and were horror stories by the 1980s.  In Chicago, the most notorious was Cabrini Green.

By 1980, things had gotten so bad, that then Mayor Jane Byrne decided to temporarily move in to a vacant unit, brining her security and police with her.  If you’ve ever seen the TV series Good Times and understood that the title was greatly ironic, you might know that this Norman Lear series was set in Cabrini Green.  While that was something of a dramatic sitcom, the horror film Candyman wasn’t … it was set there too!

By the 1990s, the decision was made that these blights had to go, and plans began for new housing and demolition of these monstrosities.  The move is now toward mixed income housing … trying to avoid the problems of keeping too many impoverished together.  This has not been without issues, as some of these buildings are in nicer, gentrified areas, and some unscrupulous folks have taken to purchasing or buying lower income units through fronts, and renting them for exorbitant prices.

This month, the last hundred-some-odd residents of Cabrini-Green were given formal notices of eviction.  They had tried to fight his (why?  I can’t imagine), but when the legal efforts were ended, they filed a new injunction to get the first right of purchase on the new homes that are to be built in their place.  That is still pending.

However, they have until January, because on the 18th of the new year, the last high rise will be demolished.

Thus ending another exceptionally sad chapter in Chicago’s fight with poverty.  I can only hope the exit round won’t be as painful.

An end to German multiculturalism?

October 17, 2010


German Chancellor Angela Merkel … one of the supposed “left wing lunatics” who refused to support George W. Bush’s foray into Iraq, has stated publicly that German muti-culturalism has failed, and that immigrants to Germany need to adopt Christian values and learn German.

I know, you are thinking things like this are the stuff of regional America.  Apparently, Germany can be added to the list of nations the are concerned about losing their national identity.  Note:  something like this could not have come at a worse time for American Democrats whose far right wings foes are jumping up and down right now and shouting at the top of their lungs “see …. we weren’t the only people thinking this!!!”

The idea of immigrants being made to learn the native language as a condition of immigration (within a reasonable amount of time) isn’t crazy … that immigrants need to bend a bit to the local values and morays is hardly asking too much.

This is hardly the most surprising thing in this article.  Here’s what grabbed my attention:


While warning against “immigration that weighs down on our social system”, Merkel said Germany needed specialists from overseas to keep the pace of its economic development.

According to the head of the German chamber of commerce and industry, Hans Heinrich Driftmann, Germany is in urgent need of about 400,000 engineers and qualified workers, whose lack is knocking about one percent off the country’s growth rate.

The integration of Muslims has been a hot button issue since August when a member of Germany’s central bank sparked outrage by saying the country was being made “more stupid” by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants with headscarves.


Let’s throw out the overtly racist headscarf comment … that does not gain my approval.  What I noted is that there is a desperate need for engineers in Germany, and that this is a function of problems in the education system.

Does that sound like a familiar argument … something about how the U.S. is falling behind other western nations because we can’t educate enough people to fill the technical jobs.  Apparently, it is a scare tactic, because Germany is about as industrialized a Western nation as you get … and arguably has the greatest tradition of engineering in the world (not always used for good, mind you) … and they are having the same problems we are.  I note that as being “interesting”.

Is immigration in both nations really the problem, or is it the scapegoat?  I’ve always found it interesting that the same people who blame illegal immigrants for our poor education system are the same ones who will blame teachers as well.  As with everything, part of the truth might be in each of these issues, but one is hardly the culprit.


Tangentially, the upcoming Congressional elections are to be interesting … the left wing is highly fractured after four years of little improvement and a lot of economic downturn (surely, President Obama cannot be blamed for all of this, but when you are in power, you tend to take the blame for what happens).  On the other hand, the emboldened right wing has stepped out and shown that a few of their members are in really bad shape (note:  if your campaign commercial starts with the lines “I am not a witch”, stop wasting our money and get out of the race!).  Part of me wonders if in the end there will be no net change …. certainly the right wing will make gains, as is generally the case when the economy is bad, and the left wing is in power.

One wonders if the right wingers will latch on to this, and remind the left wingers that they are simply taking Europe’s lead … like they always want the nation to do.

Do-it-yourself space exploration

October 9, 2010


A father and son decided they wanted to try and reach space … not themselves personally, but they wanted to launch a camera in hopes of getting some images from space.


Equipment:  1 iPhone, 1 video camera, 1 GPS device, 1 hand warmer, 1 thermal insulating bag, 1 nineteen inch weather balloon, and one note asking hte equipment’s safe return


After 8 months of research and planning, they pair and a friend went to a local park, and let it go.

The balloon did not reach the technical threshold of space, which in and of itself is a tenuously described boundary … but it did reach an altitude of about 100,000 feet.  The package was recovered about 25 miles away hanging from a tree.

The film is described in the article as “perhaps the most impressive amateur space footage ever”.  I agree that anything previous would be hard pressed to top this.

Perhaps this will inspire some other amateur (or even not so amateur space enthusiasts to give it a go … at least once their kids are old enough! 😉

Family Update

October 5, 2010

It has been a while since I talked about the family, and given a few recent events, I suppose now’s as good a time as any.


My sister-in-law has begun formal divorce proceedings with my brother.  Based on what I have been told, so far things are fairly amicable.  My brother still stops over at the house and cuts the lawn and has done some painting among other things.  My brother still lives with my parents, and my parents still receive regular visits from my growing nephew and goddaughter.

My niece/goddaughter has discovered The Wizard of Oz.  She is endlessly fascinated by the film, and cannot get enough of it.  I bought a copy of the film as part of her recent birthday present, and every time she comes over to visit grandma and grandpa, that movie has to be playing.


Dad made it sober for a few months, but I recently found out that he started drinking again about two weeks ago.  During this time he fell and now has a compression fracture of one of his thoracic vertebrae.  He had to be taken to the hospital to under go observation and detox.

Part of the problem is that the alcoholism has left him with a form of osteoporosis.  His liver is also, apparently, just about gone.  My uncle happened to be coming in for a school reunion this last weekend, and visited my dad in the hospital.  My mom told him that there was a chance that this would be the last time he would see him.

My father is undergoing evaluation to see if he qualifies for a long-term care home since my mom can no longer take care of him.  He was fitted with a heavy brace to help him deal with the fracture.  Overall, his attitude is terrible, and I suspect that he is continuing to verbally and emotionally abuse my mother.  I have tried advising mom that perhaps the time has come to bring this relationship to an end since he no longer responds consistently well to accepting the help he needs, and that he is not treating my mother very well.  I don’t completely understand my mom’s motives, but mom is a pretty classic co-dependent, and as such is not in a hurry to leave.

On the bright side, my sister seems to be doing well.

A big day for Germany

October 4, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010 marked the anniversary of a new beginning, as well as the closing of a final door on history.

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of Germany’s reunification.  For me, this occurred when I was 19, so I can now say that most of my life has been lived in the presence of a single German state … something that seemed ludicrous and distant not too long before that.

The more quiet event was a US$94 million payment made by the German government … the final payment due on via the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I …. some 90 + years ago.

The 1919 Treaty of Versailles, all told, required Germany to pay out the equivalent (in 2010 US$) of $400 billion.  Needless to say, Germany’s only recourse was to print the money and  ship it out … this in turn led to crippling inlfation (some of you no doubt have heard the stories of a literal wheelbarrow full of German Marks being used to buy a loaf of bread.  My stamp collection includes a not-all-that-rare-or-valuable 10 million mark stamp.  With the German economy in ruins, it wasn’t long before the Germans turned to a cult of personality to lead them from ruin to being mighty once again;  the seeds of National Socialism and World War II, and all that has come about as a consequence because of it … everything from nuclear weapons and the Cold War and space travel to digital computers … even the founding of Israel and American involvement in the Middle East … all lie in that document.

Why the long payback (besides the hefty amount involved)?  Germany had stopped payback when the economy went belly up (even before Hitler came to power … France actually invaded and occupied part of Germany after the payments stopped).  Hitler would have no part with the payment of money to any foreign nations or bond holders.  When Germany was divided, West Germany balked at payment unless East Germany chipped in, which it was not going to do.  Thus West Germany suspended payments “until Germany is reunified”.  When that happened in the 1990s, a plan was worked out, and repayment started up again … until the final payment was mailed in on Sunday.