Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Readin': Tatoos on the Heart

Fr. Greg Boyle has written an incredible book. It has been a while since a reading a book has affected me so often. I found myself tearing up over and over again reading the stories of his experiences in the Los Angeles projects.

Boyle has been a Jesuit priest for 25 years and has spent most of his time in and around the same parish in L A situated between two housing projects, home to many of the gangs. He started an organization called Homeboy Industries whose motto is, "Nothing stops a bullet like a job." The organization gives jobs to as many gang related individuals as they can and helps them up and out.

The book, subtitled The Power of Boundless Compassion, is astonishing. In it, Fr. Boyle explains his ministry, and by extension, our call to ministry in eloquent, poetic terms. The book is truly inspiring and one whose impact will be with me for a long time. His theology is sound, compassionate and grounded. He illustrates his points with stories of his homies and the experiences he has had with them. I read it for the stories to begin with, but realized shortly after beginning that this was an intensely spiritual work. It should give anyone who is struggling with work in what may appear to be a hopeless situation the fortitude to persevere. I know it has inspired me to look at my life and what I do with it in a new way.

A life-changing book, if you let it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hoops: Dawg Bites Wildcat; UW 85 - U of Arizona 68

Last night's game at the newly renamed Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundsen Pavilion proved to be as good a game as many people predicted. With UW at #1 and UA at #2 in the Pac-10, it promised to be a good one.

It was.

The game was tight for much of the time with the Huskies generally keeping a 5-8 point lead, but letting it dwindle down a couple of times and even having Arizona get ahead a few times. With about 5 minutes left in the game, UW started pulling away, eventually winning by 17.

Isaiah Thomas (22), Justin Holiday (22), and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (18) proved their worth once again as they combined for 62 of UW's points. IT and MBA seem almost hard-wired together they are playing so well. Several of Zeke's assists were aimed right at MBA and he delivered each time. Two assists come to mind; both alley-oop passes. The first, to MBA floated high to the right of the hoop as MBA grabbed it in his right hand and thundered it down. The second went to Venoy Overton, which was, in itself, quite a surprise. With V coming in from the left baseline, IT hung the ball up to the left of the rim. V grabbed it with both hands and flushed it down. Both moves brought the raucous crowd to their feet.

Arizona is a good team. One tactic they used well that I thought should have been called more closely though, is their screening. I have nothing against a team that sets a good hard pick on an opposing player. That's an essential part of the game and one that every good team must learn to cope with. What I have a problem with is when the screening player moves with the defender after the pick to continue keeping them out of the play. This gives an unfair advantage to the offense because the defense is now playing4 on 5 with one player completely screened out. From my vantage point, that's what Arizona was doing very effectively. Maybe I'm becoming a UW homer, but I don't think we do the same thing when we're on offense. Our picks are clean and we use them well, both on the ball and away from the ball to get shooters free.

Anyway, it was a great game. Well played by both teams.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Readin': The First Rule

I have a weakness for what I consider to be literary popcorn; the modern detective novel. I tend to go through them relatively quickly, usually just 1 or 2 sittings. As a result, I almost never buy them in hardback, only paper.

My latest read has been The First Rule by Robert Crais. Mr Crais has a series of books out whose main character is a wise guy private eye (my favorite kind, along the lines of Robert Parker's Spencer and Marcus Didius Falco in Lindsay Davis' series) by the name of Elvis Cole. Elvis has a partner in his Los Angeles-based detective agency named Joe Pike. Joe is the sidekick Elvis needs when the going gets rough, sort of like Hawk is to Spencer.

Mr. Crais has started writing books that feature Joe Pike as the main character with Elvis serving as sidekick when there's some detecting to be done (Joe is more of a doer than a detector). The First Rule is the second Joe Pike novel. The third, The Sentry is already out in hardback, but I'll either have to wait a year for the paperback or get it from the library. I just can't justify $25+ for such a short read.

Joe is a man of action; a former Marine, former mercenary, former L.A. cop. He has been described by another reviewer as " a Zen warrior-priest" and that seems a pretty accurate assessment. He's entirely self sufficient, deadly with weapons or without, and a truly decent guy. One thing I really like about Crais' writing is that his characters are real and believable. I end up caring a lot about Joe and Elvis because I have witnessed them do so many good things whether those things get rewarded or not.

The First Rule tells the story of what happens after one of "Joe's guys", a former mercenary that Joe hadn't seen in 10 years, is executed (along with his whole family) in a home invasion. Joe gets involved and gets to the bottom of it, but not before running into the Serbian gangs, the ATF, and a plot to get 3,000 AK-47s into the country.

I love Joe's sense of loyalty and his willingness to put everything on the line in order to find out what went wrong in Frank's life and make sure that justice is served. The ending is quite surprising, but also very satisfying. The bad guys get it, in the end and the good guys come out ahead. We get to see a surprisingly tender side of Joe in his relations with a 10 month-old that is a part of the story.

A very satisfying and recommended read. If you haven't every read anything by Robert Crais, I probably wouldn't start with this one, but you could as it stands on its own well.

When I read an author, especially if they have a series of books, I like to start at the beginning and then move through the books in chronological order of publication because then you can see how the author develops all of the individual characters over time. Also, so of the little references made to previous adventures become much richer if you have already read those.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Raisin' Fish: The cycle starts again

This morning at 8:30 I picked up 70,000 coho salmon eggs from the Skykomish river strain at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's Issaquah Hatchery. I brought them back to Lake Forest Park and McAleer Creek and Francis and I loaded them all into the incubator. For a video overview of the process, scroll down a couple of posts for the 4 videos I put up a couple of weeks ago. The middle two will give you a good idea of what we did today.

Now the daily vigilance of checking the outlet pipe of the incubator begins. As long as there is water flowing out there, then there is water flowing through the system. The eggs should hatch in the next couple of weeks. From there it'll be another 3.5 months (more or less) until they are ready to release. The whole process is driven by the temperature of the water that the eggs/alevin/fry are in. The warmer the water, the faster they grow. Of course, the colder the water is, the more oxygen it carries, so there is a balance to be achieved there (not that I can really do anything about the temperature of McAleer Creek beyond making sure that we have lots of overhanging vegetation to shade it so it won't heat up unnecessarily).

I love working in the water with the little fishes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Readin': Unbroken

Laura Hillenbrand is a great writer. She writes non-fiction that reads as well as any novel. Her first book was Seabiscuit in 2000. That book was quite popular and very good. It eventually got made into a movie and rightly so. Because she can tell a story clearly and well, because she is able to bring the characters in her stories to life in a way that makes us care about them, because she is able to convey the inherent drama in the story she is telling; her books already read like a movie script.

Her latest book, Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is no different. The main focus of the book is Louis Zemperrini. Louie was a boyhood hooligan and an Olympic runner who came close to breaking (and perhaps would have had things been different) the 4:00 minute mile barrier. He ran in the 1936 Olympics in the 5,000 meter race as a 19-year-old against 26-30 year olds and placed fourth. It was only the fourth time he had run a race at that distance.

World War II intervened. Louie became a bombardier in the Army Air Force, the precursor to the USAF. He was aboard a B-24 that crashed in the Pacific while looking for another plane that had gone down. He and the other two survivors spent 47 days on an inflatable raft, longer than any humans had. At the end of that, they were, unfortunately, picked up by a Japanese boat. Louie spent the next 2 1/2 years in various Japanese POW camps.

Unbroken is a brutal, hopeful, magnificent book. After reading it, I have so much admiration for what people are able to overcome. Louie had a hard time for several years after returning to the US, but in the end made it. He's still alive, at least he was at the time the book was written.

Reading either of Laura's books is a sure bet. They are both awesome.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hoops: Dawg Bites Duck, UW87 - UofOregon 69

Last night's game at Hec Edmundon Arena was bittersweet. Bitter because Abdul Gaddy will not be playing the rest of the season; sweet because Terrence Ross absolutely torched the Ducks he was so hot.

It was easy to see that the team misses Abdul. He was sitting on the bench in street clothes where he'll be for the rest of the season after tearing his left ACL in practice on Wednesday. He provides such a calming influence when he's running the point. You could see the Dawgs were in need of some calming during the first half. We shot pretty poorly (17-38, 48%) which allowed Oregon to stay close, ending the half up 39 - 33. Our poor shooting had little to do with Oregon's defense; it seemed like we were rushing things. Abdul would have calmed that down.

The second half was a different story, though it didn't look that way at the beginning. The Oregon Ducks came out with a lot of intensity and actually led the game at one point; 42-21 with about 2 minutes elapsed in the half. The lead traded back and forth for about 5 minutes with the Ducks staying in it well during that period. However, they could not sustain that intensity. At the 13:31 mark we pulled ahead on a 3-pointer by Scott Suggs and then motored steadily away, finished up with a cushion of 18 points.

Isaiah Thomas (20) and Terrence Ross (25) combined for 45 points, most of them in the second half. At one point Zeke was bringing the ball up court, drifting just left of center. From the far right corner TR flashed his hand up and took off for the hoop, slashing quickly across the court. Isaiah let a pass fly high, Terrence gathered it in and thundered home an awesome alley-oop dunk. Beautiful stuff to watch. Terrence had his best game yet. He sure doesn't play like a freshman, even though he is. I'd imagine he's going to be getting alot of those minutes that used to go to Abdul.

MBA had another solid game; 13 points, two blocks, and 8 rebounds. Scott Suggs chipped in 13 on 5-8 shooting; 3 of 5 from 3 point range. Justin Holiday had 7 and Darnell Gant had 4. Venoy Overton started the game in Abdul Gaddy's place, but he seemed oddly ineffective as a starter. He's been at his best coming off the bench and getting into the head of the man he's defending. I'm guessing it's going to take him some time to adjust to this new role. I hope he gets the time to make the adjustment.

Although I am a U of Oregon graduate (Masters in Computer Science-Education in 1986) I found that at no time during the game did I find myself rooting for the Ducks. From the beginning I pulled for the Huskies. Odd how loyalty to a team works.

These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along


About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.