Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 77 - Smooth as Butter

My mother's father, my maternal grandfather used to yell at grandma when she set the table for dinner.  "June, who in the hell put this oleo in here?"  I had never heard of that word but by the tone in his voice, oleo appeared to be a very very bad thing.  Grandma rushed around moving this and that out of the refrigerator and later I asked  her, "What was that all about?  What is oleo?"  She said, "Oleo is margarine.  Your grandfather doesn't think margarine tastes as good as butter.  I try to switch it out every once in a while as butter isn't good for his cholesterol. Sometimes I get away with it and sometimes I don't."  She walked  away to finish the dinner as she snickered.

I didn't know the difference.  It's interesting when you grow up with only one thing and you travel to friend's house and find out that there is a choice you didn't know existed.  Like the time I found out about bagels.  When I first saw them I didn't know what they were.  We always had english muffins or just plain old bread. I felt the same way when Grandpa would eat his "brown bread." Grandpa loved pumpernickel bread.  I wrinkled my face as he put his butter on a toasted slice of that dark brown bread. I asked Mom what did we have when I got home and she said margarine.  I didn't see the big deal but as I've gotten older I realize butter is really really good.  It makes everything taste better.  Isn't it nice to have something or eat something that you know has the "real" stuff in it?  I guess that is why the phrase "like mom/grandma used to make" differentiates the degree of goodness.

It's the same with games.  There are just some games that have the "real" stuff in it.  The players play hard, the coaches coach with heart and the fans cheer optimistically for their team. These are the smooth as butta games!  I remember one game that I officiated at the Daytona Ocean Center over the Christmas Holidays.  During the winter, NAIA northern colleges bring their teams to bask in Florida's sunshine while playing in tournaments.  The game I was assigned had two teams that used the five man in and five man substitution system.  Or in this case the five women substitution.  Both teams were ranked nationally as the highest scoring teams in the NAIA division.  They didn't foul much as they were so busy running and gunning three-pointers and substituting fresh legs that the score ended with 208 total points in normal regulation!  This was a new record high points for me as an official.  Hardly any fouls and fun to watch too. We ran our butts off but it was one of the most enjoyable games I ever had.  103 to 105 was the final score.  I hated to see either team lose.

I was so excited to get this game I called my assignor on the way home. I said excitedly, "Tony, we just finished our game at the Ocean Center and it was great! I wanted to call and thank you for that game!" He replied, "What went wrong?" I said, "Nothing. I was just calling to let you know how great a game it was. The final score was 105 to 103 and they hardly fouled the entire game!"  I was almost out of breath from excitement as I had called as soon as I got in the car to drive home.  He said, "BJ, Don't call me for that shit!" and hung up on me.  [I am going to set the scene with a couple more stories about Tony in the upcoming days.  This one is to present the frame of the entire picture.] Great way to deflate my balloon I thought.  Tony was not known for his smooth tact and you can see why in this one sentence how his words cut like a knife.  Unprofessional, like oleo as Grandpa would say, not very smooth.

I hate to admit it but I was used to male officials being just plain mean to me.  As a female in officiating, this happens a lot in high school officiating.  Most of the officials are older men who have had one year experience thirty times and think they are the better for it.  I agree with one of my college assignors who said the problem with high school officiating is that nobody gets fired.  If the older officials who claimed to have "thirty years experience" remembered how it was when they started out, they would show much more empathy toward their younger partners.  One time after doing a forty minute pre-game for a middle school game with a fellow high school referee, we promptly went out onto the court.  Since the first game was the girls game, he asked if I wanted to toss the ball.  I always was ready for any opportunity as my motto has been luck isn't luck, it's when preparation meets opportunity.  I jumped at the chance.

I tossed the ball and promptly went to my position at Trail.  As the offensive player dribbled to the corner of the side line and half court line right in front of me being closely guarded by a defensive player, I started a five second count. When I got to five, I heard my partner blow his whistle from his position UNDER THE BASKET and signal five seconds!  YGBSM! (You Gotta Be Shitting Me!) This was going to be a rough game not to mention that I had been assigned two games with this guy.  After a forty minute  pregame of the usual "Trust your partner, Call your primary [area] and Call the obvious," he had defied his entire pregame with the very first call!  It was my primary, I had the five second count and he hadn't trusted me! He should have been watching his own area and let me make my call in MY primary area!  I tried to shake it off as the first-call-jitters, but the entire night was like this. I thought why am I even out here?  In the last quarter of the last game, I literally took my whistle off and ran up and down the court with it in my pocket. I couldn't figure out why John did this?  Did he not believe in what he preached?  Was it because I was new and in his mind inexperienced? [I had just returned from a summer filled calling Girls AAU Basketball as an AAU National Official. The Girls game uses a shot clock.  He had never officiated with a shot clock in all his  "thirty years experience."] Was it because I was a female official?  Either way it was unprofessional. 

When we finished two very rough games and we came into the locker room, I asked him what he saw on the very first call of the first game?  He said he had a five second count.  I asked him,  "Did you realize that was my area and I had the count going already from off the tip? Who was watching the players in the post all night when the ball was up top?"  He looked shocked that I would know he had broken two of the three standards of officiating with his very first call.  He started arguing with me that he was the head referee and I had no right to question him because I was younger. The right thing for me to do at this point was to stick up for myself. I wasn't the weak female as he thought I was. I cut him off in a middle of a sentence and told him, "I can't believe that you can honestly tell me that you believe any of  your pregame. Were you just bullshitting me in your pregame?  I looked forward to these games because people always told me you do the best pregame of anyone. And I agree with them.  You pull out your little board and say all the right things with the right tools. It's too bad you don't believe in and use any of what you say in your game."  I picked up my bag and walked out.  He never would even look at me again after that when I saw him at meetings.  I would say hello to him just to be cordial and he wouldn't even acknowledge my presence by responding.  Silence existed between us that could be cut like a knife. I was just glad that this knife was cutting the silence. The knife would be of no use anywhere else because all the butter had already melted. I longed to officiate more smooth-as-butta-games like "grandma used to make."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 76 - A Pair of Pears (Part 2)

(.cont'd) This morning we woke up to two new bird songs.  After searching we found that the black and white warbler and the northern parula had returned to our back yard during their annual migration.  I am familiar with the chickadee and titmouse traveling in pairs but I wasn't aware that these two traveled together.  In both of these pairs neither looks like each other.  They seem to be an odd "pair."  

In officiating, this happens a lot.  The non-officials think we are all alike because we wear the same stripes.  The reality couldn't be further from the truth.  This quickly becomes evident when an official quits.  The only officials that keep in touch are the ones who are like-minded.  Sometimes the phone never rings.  Its a great brotherhood when you are a part of it but it's extremely lonely when you are not a part of it.  The Good Partners keep in touch and continue the friendship after the last call. I'm fortunate enough to have about three Good Partners.

I met one of my Good Partners the next night after the night my Mentor broke his own Golden Rule.  I was scheduled to go back to the same tournament and call another game.  My crew chief (the head referee on the crew for the evening) was someone from out of state who I had never worked with before and who had relocated to Florida due to a new job.  His pregame consisted of the story about the chicken.  He explained that in his game also after I had left yesterday my mentor had questioned one of his calls too. My mentor OVERRULED him DURING HIS GAME.  An official is not allowed to change another officials call.  They can come to their partner and give him/her information and let them decide if they want to change their own call but they can't just change a partner's call. The FHSAA Officials manual states Rule 1.2.8 Teamwork: Allegiance to fellow officials implies an active, intelligent desire to carry out the intent of the rules by a well-coordinated team.  Each official must be willing to share the responsibility and must avoid attempts to shift the blame.  Do not negatively comment about a game, worked by another official and never criticize a fellow official when you are a "fan."  So the theory goes if  the code of conduct doesn't allow us to criticize a fellow official off the court, it sure as hell means we shouldn't criticize each other on the court in front of fans!

The crew chief had called an over and back in his area.  My mentor came out of his area to ask him what he saw.  He said the offensive team tapped the rebound to his teammate in back court and held the ball on the tap.  In his opinion, the player had control of the tip.  If the team has control then the ball can't be passed into back court without the over and back violation.  If I had thought the call was wrong, first of all I wouldn't have addressed it on the court.  But if I had come to my partner after that call, and he had explained what he saw, then that would be end of it.  I trust my partners. If a play happens in their area and their explanation is valid then we simply play on.  If I didn't agree with the control issue, I'd save it for post game at which time I would have asked him, "Would you have given the rebounder a time out?"  If he answered yes, we're done.  He got the play right.  

My crew chief was told by my mentor in that game to not call technical fouls on the assistant coach as he was also the Superintendent of the school district. As he told the story, I started to smell something fishy. Never had I been in a situation where the leadership of an association was afraid to call technical fouls.  So much that they actually "frowned" upon it.  So the question I have in this situation, is if you don't want us to call "this" rule what are the other rules you don't want us to implement?  It's an all or nothing proposition.  

The crew chief told us the story about the fair in Mayfield, Kentucky where the Governor was coming to speak.  The Governor had arrived late and stopped by the tent to get some of the famous chicken lunches before going to the podium.  He stepped up to the line and handed his plate to the old lady behind the counter.  She put one piece of chicken on his plate, to which he replied, "Mam, could you please give me another piece of chicken, I'm really hungry and I'm about to go give a speech."  She replied, "No sir. Every body gets one piece of chicken."  The Governor in his entitled manner responded, "Mam, I was late and I really would like one more piece of chicken. Do you know who I am?"  She answered, "No Sir."  He said, "I'm the Governor of Kentucky."  She extended her hand to shake his and said, "Well Sir, it's a pleasure to meet you. Do you know who I am?"  To which he replied, "No Mam."  She smiled and said, "I'm the lady with the chicken and everybody gets one piece!"

We laughed and got the point of the pregame, implement the rules and take care of business as a competent official and don't be intimidated by the off-court-title of an assistant coach.  If the coach is the president off the court, when he or she is coaching, they are still a coach on the court. Period. And as my crew chief explained we had the chicken, or in this case the whistle.  

So it was becoming clear that my mentor wasn't practicing what he was preaching.  As a leader of the association, he was also showing favoritism which is also clearly defined in the Code of Ethic handbook. Rule 1.2.6 Fair and Impartial: A good official will be courteous, but will avoid "visiting" with players during the game.  Carelessly placing an arm on a player's shoulder or around his/her wast tends to destroy respect.  Loafing in the coaches office or carrying on long conversations with the coach before, during or after the game may give the appearance of favoritism.  If conditions warrant a conference both coaches should be involved.,  a player should be addressed by number rather than name.  In addressing the captain of a team, do so by title.  The quickest way to lose respect of coaches and players is to get the reputation of being a "homer."  All actions should reflect strict and total impartiality. 

My crew chief that day became one of my good partners to which I trusted.  We were a pair.  We traveled to games and took other officials with us to train them.  Many of them went on to be Division 1 officials.  They would tell us what people would say about us.  Most people looked at us and scratched their heads on how we had become good friends.  We looked nothing alike. A pair remember is defined as having a similar association.  The friendship was built on the foundation that night that integrity was more important than the reputation of "going along to get along."  We both eventually left this association.  My mentor went on to bad mouth both of us for not fearing coaches titles off the court.  How we gave "too" many technicals.

As I continue to tell the stories, it will become clear that we both continued to do the right thing and it eventually cost us both our careers. We are an honest pair and didn't buckle under the pressure of the leaders of the associations to which we belonged to show partiality toward any coach or team.  We are tough and fair.  Isn't that what coaches really want anyway?  Consistent fairness. We don't care if you are POTUS, our child's doctor, or our own kids when we walk out on the court with a whistle.  (I have given my own son a technical foul when he threw the ball down in disgust.) I'd rather be associated with someone with whom I can eat soup than someone who is not a good partner that will buy me a steak. We may not look like each other on the outside just as the northern parula and the black and white warbler pair appear to be different. But we traveled together like this pair of birds. When we put on our stripes, we have the same philosophy and we hold similar values on the inside. Integrity, Honesty, and Justice.  This is why we have remained friends to this day.

During that tournament it wasn't the coaches, players, fans or administrators that were our opponents.  Unfortunately it was a battle between the lines within the crew.  These are the hardest games to officiate. You begin to second guess every non-call or every call because of the fear that your call might be overturned by your partner unjustly and unethically.  I resigned from that association because I had lost faith in my mentor.  It had gotten back to me that the same leaders who were mentoring me went on to tell officials from the association I was planning to join the upcoming year, "We're sending a good one back to you."  No I didn't need to be sent anywhere, I wasn't there anymore to be sent.

So it is with pride I stand by the one partner who had my back.  We bucked the establishment and wouldn't carry out an illegal order.  My partner learned he was not required to carry out any order that was illegal while in the Air Force.  As an USAF, Major Retired, he never gave an illegal order for this same reason. It simply was not the right thing to do.  If this is the kind of character a man has, then the only people who oppose him either don't know him or are the ones who weren't righteous in the first place.  This is a very hard lesson to learn as we really want to believe in the leadership of the people who mentor us.  The right thing to do is realize there is corruption everywhere there is money to be made.  It's the honest old ladies handing out the chicken who implement the rules under the most extreme pressure of interrogation and intimidation.  And it was the honest old lady from Mayfield, Kentucky with the chicken who actually had a "pair."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 75 - A Pair of Pears (Part 1)

English is a language that has many synonyms and homonyms.  This became an issue when trying to help Felipe and Jula understand English.  When Felipe first arrived we explained the NUMBER ONE RULE in the house.  If you don't understand something, too often you will be conditioned to say you understand.  IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND SOMETHING YOU MUST TELL US. Having had experience with foreign exchange students I knew it was common for them to be embarrassed and say that they understood something when in fact they really didn't.  When Jula arrived, she was informed of the rule also.  So we tried to do our best when explaining English. This sometimes proved difficult when it came to homonyms and synonyms.  We know that blinds cover the window through which we see, yet when we can't see we are blind.  "It is just the way it is," we explained and we know it doesn't make sense.  Welcome to America!

There were many homonyms that didn't make sense either, but they too were "what they were."  They sounded the same so we would spell them out to try to explain the difference.  A pear is a fruit from the rose family that has an oblong shape in which a broad base end tapers upward to a narrow stem end. A pair is two similar or associated things.  We had a pair of foreign exchange students.  People often asked us if we were glad we had two foreign exchange students instead of one? Yes for a number of reasons.  One is they were forced to speak English to each other as Portuguese and Deutsche don't sound similar.  They did find some sayings in common however.  On rare occasions we all had the same translation for a word such as dandelion.  In German it is Löwenzahn which translates the teeth of a lion.  It is the same translation in Portuguese and English

As a pair, we explained that it was their responsibility to each other in this family to have each other's backs.  Jula helped Felipe get up in time for school.   Felipe helped Jula with computer applications. Jula helped Felipe solicit the guidance counselor for graduation rights and so on.  This was an integral part of our family as officials, we knew the importance of having each other's backs. A partner can make a rough game smooth or can turn a game into a game from hell.  I took it one step further and defined a good partner as someone who not only has your back on the court but off the court as well.

This was a big issue for me.  Loyalty was paramount as we were always taught that we have a hierarchy of loyalty in officiating.  The highest loyalty is to the integrity of the game as I've mentioned before.  The second loyalty is to your partner.  And the third loyalty is to ourselves. Many inexperienced coaches tried to chirp in my ear while I was on their court about my partners.  This is a tactic in which coaches use to try to get an edge. Split the enemy and they're easier to defeat.  The problem with this logic is we are not the enemy, the opposing team should be their puzzle to unravel.

I was taught by my mentor that even if we didn't agree with our partners call, we never were to let a coach know this.  On the court, our partners are the only thing we've got.  I need to know that after a call, my partner won't go sell me out to a coach.  My mentor taught me the exact words to use and I put them into my game and used them for the rest of my career.  If a coach started chirping this old song, I replied, "Coach, don't talk about my partners and I won't talk about your assistant coaches."  That usually did it.  A line of respect drawn on the wooden floor.

I defined a good partner as one who also had your back off the court.  When somebody talked about me off the court, I could count on one hand the officials who would have my back. I had four laminated tags made to put on my referee bag and handed out the other three to partners who had my back. The tags were black and yellow that said: A Good Partner: a) One who has your back on and off the court. The few partners who earned this title, proudly displayed this tag on their bags as we rolled into a gym.  What a great game we would have when all three bags had the tags on the same crew. 

Ironically it was my mentor who broke his own golden rule he had taught me that started the end of my career.  Two female players from opposing teams were talking to each other in such a way that I knew they didn't want to have tea together after the game.  I warned them the first time. When we came back down the court, I told my partners as I pointed to them, "Keep an eye on 22 and 11."  The defensive player face guarded the offensive player away from the ball and immediately she retaliated by pushing the defensive player back.  I popped  them both with a technical foul.  Evidently the offensive girl had never gotten a technical in her life so coach thought I was a bad guy because I had made her cry.  I had given this coach his one-and-only technical in his entire career and he had "scratched" me.  Since this was a tournament, he couldn't pick and choose which officials he "preferred" to referee his games. My mentor, who was on my crew in this game, and this coach were good friends on and off the court.  And as I have explained before, unprofessionalism is when the inexplicable happens.  After my call, my mentor went over to the coach and being the avid lip reader that I am I saw my mentor mouth the words, "I don't know why she called it, I didn't think it was a foul either."  

I was livid.  I wanted to finish this game and just get out of there as I know that when I get pissed, nothing good comes out of my mouth.  To be honest, I was hurt.  I had his back no matter how bad his calls were yet he sold me down the river in a row boat without oars to a coach!  The cardinal sin in officiating.  As I put on my earrings and changed, he stopped me to do a post game.  I told him I really wasn't interested tonight.  He said he could see that I was upset and I should tell him why.  I said, "If we are going to talk I need to be able to really talk and not be cut short."  He agreed and I let him have it.  

We ended up having a heated discussion with the next crew listening before they went on the court for their game.  He confessed that what he said was what I thought. He didn't think that was a foul that warranted a technical.  "Are you shitting me?  Face Guarding an opponent away from the ball is an automatic technical by rule. Retaliation is a non-basketball act of  unsportsmanship. Both warranted a technical."  But even if he hadn't agreed, why would he tell a GODDAMNED coach? As it turned out, they needed a third for the crew of the next game and before he placed himself on that crew I spoke my peace. "You of ALL people sold me out to a coach.  That is unforgivable! Particularly since I have looked up to you and you are the one who taught me never to do this.  You  have broken your own Golden Rule!" I screamed.  

He called me on the phone after I had gotten home, we talked for an hour eventually agreeing to disagree.  The next day we talked again for an hour and at the end of the conversation I said, "Do you realize after three hours of discussion, not once have you apologized for selling me out to a coach?"  To which he replied my call wasn't right.  To this day, my mentor has never apologized. I apologized to him years later for letting it cause a rift between us but he has not been professional and returned the apology. I hear the words of Richard Bach, "We teach best what we need to learn most."

I wasn't a first year official anymore, I had six years under my belt.  Others were afraid of him because they knew he could ruin their careers on the local level.  He went on to do the Division II Women's NCAA Elite Eight game and after being denied a Division I spot upon his return from camps, switched over from the Womens to the Mens side to be an official.  I can't help but think that I wasn't the first official that he sold out on the court.  Later after telling others of what happened, they shared their own stories. They too had had similar stories. The right thing to do for anyone is to apologize if the another party brings it to your attention that you wronged them.  Especially if you break the same golden rule you taught them to follow. This broad based pear tapered up to a narrow stem of superiority that night to which he never returned. ( be continued.)

Day 74 - Photo Contest - Use a Different Filter

Red Velvet
When we took Felipe and Jula around to different parts of America for them to experience, I had to get a new camera.  Felipe had a 12x optical zoom lens but I needed something a little stronger to catch the photos of my birds. The warblers are so tiny.  I didn't have the money to go buy a new one so I checked Ebay and other auction sites to search for a good deal.  I found a Buy-It-Now price on Ebay for a 24x Nikon Cool Pix Camera for $250 including shipping.  This was a camera with a retail value of about $800.  Needless to say, with this new bad boy,  I now have hundreds of thousands of photos.  After each outing Jula, Felipe and I would trade our digital photos after we got home.  This was interesting as although we had been to the same place we each had a different view of what we saw.

Skins - White skin with his animal skins
Like life I suppose, we experience the same things differently.  Based on our past experiences we filter events differently.  I taught Felipe a saying I use often, "the luggage I bring to the relationship."  This means that sometimes when there is a breakdown in communication it may be because I will think that someone means something differently than what they intended. This filter is based on what a particular phrase or word had meant in a previous relationship or occasion from my past.  Different words mean different things to different people. In one of my diversity classes, we were separated into groups and given one word.  We were then asked to write down the first word we thought was a synonym for that word on a piece of paper.  In a group of eight, the word we were given was money.  I wrote down the word currency. The other seven people wrote down the words dollar, buck, power, time, cash, bank, and bill.  The same word had eight different meanings to every single person in my group.

So as a foreign exchange student he was not only dealing with a language barrier but he was dealing with a luggage barrier as well.  I was honest about it and he would sometimes ask me, "Is that your luggage?"  After some deliberation, I concluded that about fifty percent of the time it was.  The right thing to do when there is a communication breakdown is to examine ourselves and see if we are at least part of the problem. 

He was immediately smitten with his new camera and Jula wouldn't take any photos at all.  We asked her why and she told us because she could remember it all. She didn't "need" a camera.  This bothered me a little bit.  First because our intent was to show them both so much of America that I knew that pictures would bring back the memories.  But most of all because it was in my opinion a selfish decision.  We had a family meeting and discussed how much it would mean to send photos back to her parents.  Her parents paid a huge amount of money and sacrificed their own feelings of sending her across the world for her wish to travel to America.  We explained this is the least she could do.  So she obliged and she eventually became better than myself at taking photos of dragonflies and other various nature.  For Christmas upon her return to Germany, her parents bought her a better camera!

Baby Great Horned Owl
This week is the deadline for a photo contest of nature at our  local State Park.  We were there last year for Earth Day and I took a rare photo of a baby Great-Horned Owl that was born there. We entered a total of five photos and hope that we win one of the prizes.  It was a chore to have the digital photos sent off to be printed as 8x10's, go to the store to buy mattes which were required, fill out a two page entry form for each photo, write your name, address and photo title on each one and deliver them to the office between 11-3 on Friday.  Total cost $30 and four hours.

Proud Papa Great Horned Owl
It bothers me that the rules are such that contests usually end up costing the participants money and time. The park gets full rights to your photo upon entry.  After all they did provide the subjects of the photographs.   I've entered contests in the past and not won after investing time and money.  When I have seen the winners, I wonder how my entry was deemed of less value than the winning entries.  Knowing this I'm going to unpack my luggage and go back to the park on Earth Day again this year and just be thankful that we have so many beautiful parks to visit. Who knows, I may get more opportunities to capture a winning shot, now that I've unpacked my "luggage" I might find a different filter.

And where does that come from? Were you born with that ability or did you grow into having that ability? Did you pop out of the womb fully capable of thinking for yourself? Of course you didn't. That ability developed in you. Your environment made you into the self confident man you are. That doesn't happen to everyone. Not everyone reads the same data from the same circumstances. Every thing you see is filtered through all the things that you have seen [before.]  ~Omega Man

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 73 - It's Never the Great Ones

I've been blessed in my life to have not one but three teachers that have made a difference in my life.  Not only are they good at what they do, they are role models who show their students that they care about them.  After twenty-five years I searched out two of my college professors recently.  Dr. Takei was the most influential.  He taught Philosophy and Logic classes at the university I attended.  He started the class stating, "You will use what I teach you in this class every day for the rest of your life.  You will use it when you are arguing with your wife or husband and you will say, Dr. Takei, 'You were right!'"  Dr. Takei, you were right!  He taught us how to break arguments down into smaller segments and how to decide the validity of these arguments.  Here is an easy example to follow:

Sentence A: We go to the movies every Friday
Sentence B: It rains every Friday
Sentence C:  It will rain this Friday when we go to the movies

The premise goes, if any statement is false in the the argument then the point of the argument may be false as a result.  Sentence A is presumed True, Sentence B is False (every is the false adjective here,) so therefore Sentence C is False.  Politicians do this often.  State a sequence of sentences of which one is false.  Because the other sentences are true, people believe all of the sentences and thus the point of the argument.  This is why fact checking is the right thing to do. Trust and Verify. I do this often at

The second professor was Dr. Girven who I have kept in contact with throughout the years.  He asked me to come and speak to one of his sociology classes a few years back.  It was an honor.  I was a leader in the Multiracial Movement to petition the OMB to allow multiracial adults to properly self-identify on government forms and the census.  He asked me to come and speak about my experience of being a speaker at the First Multiracial March on Washington. During college I worked at McDonalds and he periodically brought his eight children in with him to buy them ice cream.  I thought it was a modern day marvel when he came because his children were all different ethnicities and races. Either he had eight different wives, he babysat to supplement his college wages or his children were adopted.  Most of us correctly concluded the latter.  He was very soft spoken and taught us to not just "tolerate" differences in people who look different than ourselves but to do the right thing and "accept" them.  In Dr. Girven's case, he took one additional step by also loving them.

The concept that somebody can be changed simply by being who they are in addition to being good at what they do is powerful.  When I contacted these two professors after twenty years, I was just another student to them.  They love hearing from students and how they made a difference in our lives. I let them know how much I appreciated their classes and how it had made a difference in my life.  I also looked up my basketball coach from high school and contacted him.  Coach Gregg was surprised to hear from me and that I had become a basketball referee.  I told him the story of how I fell in love with the game of basketball while playing for him so much that I wanted to continue to be part of the game. So after trying my hand at coaching, I became a basketball official.  He replied, "Well it's never the great ones who stay with it."  Offended I thought, does that mean that the great teachers weren't great students?

He was right, I wasn't great when I was in high school but I was good.  That's true of most officials.  There are exceptions but most of us just love the game.  We have to.  The hardships that officiating puts on us and our families, the low wages at levels below Division 1, and the thick skin required in order to take the verbal abuse are not for the "stars" of the game.  The stars have lived hearing the accolades from all their friends and families.  They don't stick with it because there are no accolades in this avocation.

When I officiate at Disney Wide World of Sports, many of the table crew are from local high schools who have graduated and still play on the local college basketball teams.  When I step on the court, they tell me they know me.  They tell me how they remember a call I made and how they either loved me (some of them tell me I am their "favorite" referee) and others tell me they were mad because I called a foul on them at the end of a close game. Now they have to be "part" of my crew and work with me as most people don't realize the clock operator and score keeper are an extension of the officiating crew. So whether they were for or against me, they must work with me as they have become a part of my team. I usually think about this until the jump ball.  We don't realize we make a difference by just being who we are, by continuing to be a part of the game of basketball and being good at what we do.  (People sometimes forget we are the necessary evil.) Whether we want to be or not, we are role models on and off the court.

With literally hundreds of thousands of young people who watch us, it's nice to receive positive feedback.  We hear the negative instantly and constantly. I wonder how my professors felt when I contacted them after so many years.  After coaching my 0-10 season, I received a letter from my twelve-year old player who had Fragile-X .  She stated how much playing basketball meant to her and thanked me for being her coach.  She told me that she wanted to coach when she grew up. After I read the letter, I cried.  Its not the great ones who stay with it.

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.  ~Michael Jordan

Even when I'm old and gray, I won't be able to play it, but I'll still love the game. ~Michael Jordan

Day 72 - The Can Man - There by the Grace of God...Go I

I lived in a neighborhood many years ago that had the local regulars out and about.  Every morning I saw a man who carried three plastic bags full of crushed aluminum cans.  He was coming back from his morning walk and dumpster diving and I was on my way to the daycare to drop off the kids and then on to work.  On my way home, I saw a women who appeared to be in her fifties jogging with much effort.  These two people were out every day doing the same thing because they could. They had become a part of my daily routine. She was out there doing it, giving it her best.  Not fast, but slow and steady. I admired this woman's effort as I know how hard it is to run being a referee. An official runs about 2.5 miles in a game without timeouts.  The timeouts come at the mercy of the teams which are always convenient for us.  Think about it, we don't have timeouts when we need a break and we have to officiate the entire game without substitution.  

The other aspect of officiating that fans, coaches and others don't comprehend is that these players are between fifteen and twenty-two years old.  And they stay that age.  We get older every year and yet we have to be faster than they are to beat them down the court to be in position to see the play develop and finish.  I took pride in knowing that the majority of my games I had always been in proper position to see the play.  I may get beat on a fast break occasionally but for the most part I could hang. Not bad for being twice their age.  Even while officiating the boys AAU during the summer and wearing a knee brace, I hustled to get into position.

One time in camp, I was told by an observer, " You seem to run well, do you have to wear that brace?"  Well the brace is the reason I was running so well so I wasn't about to take it off.  I had four knee surgeries and was able to fully recover due to a great physical therapist, knee physician and this brace.  I realized what he was telling me.  Coming to camp, paying the $500, you had to be separated from the pack to get one of the two jobs that were available. Separating ourselves from the other 120-200 campers should just be on how you officiate, your knowledge of the rules and your ability to make a good partner.  The reality was the knee brace made it appear that I was "damaged goods."

No recognition that we officiate an average of 200 games a year.  No recognition that we spend our off season of two months getting surgeries to get better in time for camp.  No recognition that in my case after five years of four knee surgeries and a foot surgery that every year when the season rolled around my body was ready to officiate.  The hardest part is not the games, it's the recovery.  I had found that the NFL players who are veterans are right.  They say that after Sunday's game, when they were rookies, by Wednesday they were ready to practice.  After ten years or more, it took until Friday or Saturday before their body was ready for the next game on Sunday.

I had weighed over 250 pounds when I started officiating.  I thought I was too heavy but after listening to football players who went to camps, I thought if they can do it, so can I. The right thing to do sometimes is to just be determined to reach a goal, make a plan, write it down, and live everyday as if that goal was the only goal in your life.  We can think to ourselves, we must take steps everyday toward this goal or our life is over. We can make it come true with sheer determination alone.  This what I did. After one year, I lost eighty pounds and started officiating.

I know when I first started I looked young (probably because my kids weren't teenagers yet!) So on the crew I was always the baby.  Partners were surprised many times to find out that I was actually older than they were. After officiating a regional final, one of my referee buddies called  me to tell me that my crew had called a great game.  He mentioned that a buddy of his who attended the game with him mentioned something about one of my calls.  As he told me what his friend had said, all I heard was, "blah blah blah and the older female official...blah blah blah."  What older?  Are you serious?  I checked the photograph of the crew that was taken that night and I saw what he meant.  With the added wrinkles and wear and tear on my body, I did look older than the twenty year old female partner I had that night! This really was a revelation to me because I didn't feel old. 

Now when I am out and about collecting aluminum cans or when I'm out trying to exercise with much effort I think about the neighborhood regulars from my past.  I bet they didn't feel old either. In fact moving kept them feeling young. There by the grace of God, go I.   I may not be able to run anymore, but I can walk and ride my bike.  The question is, have I become the neighborhood regular for somebody in my neighborhood on their way to and from work?  Is there someone in your neighborhood that is a regular?  Who will do the right thing and pick up where they left off when they aren't around anymore? Will it be you? Can you?

There are two barriers that often prevent communication between the young and their elders. The first is middle-aged forgetfulness of the fact that they themselves are no longer young. The second is youthful ignorance of the fact that the middle aged are still alive. ~ Jessamyn West

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 71 - Not One Shoe, Two Shoes, Three Shoes, but Four

At what point does one person have too many pairs of shoes?  This is the eternal question and the reason why some celebrities have closets built just for shoes. I don't know if it's coincidence but both my mother and my boyfriend need one of those closets.  I asked both of them why when they go out to shop that even if they don't buy anything else, they buy another pair of shoes?  Knowing that we can only wear one pair of shoes at a time, I don't quite understand this ritual.  I know other people like this too and I've theorized that it came from their childhood.  Most the people who buy shoes upon shoes upon shoes, grew up with little and their shoes told their story.  I knew one "shoe person" who had to put a piece of cardboard inside his shoe to protect his feet from the holes in the bottom.  He avoided mudpuddles and luckily didn't live in an area that had snow often.

So this week we received a box that was addressed to a person we didn't know.  The address was our street but since we are the only one on the street, the mail man left it for us even though the house number was wrong.  We knew this was a big error as 1) the address on the package didn't exist and 2) we hadn't ordered any shoes from Lands End which were clearly the contents inside the box.  Well all I can say is THANK GOD THEY DIDN'T fit ANYONE in the house or we probably would have had another pair of shoes to add to the collection. 

In college I had received a package without a name on the outside of the box.  It contained a fabric purse that was considered vogue at the time.  I knew that by law I could keep it.  "If you receive unsolicited goods you are under no obligation to do anything. You can keep them, bin them, give them away. The company sending unsolicited goods cannot demand payment or these be returned." However if you receive a package that has another person's name on it, the right thing to do is 1) refuse the package or 2) call the company to have them come and pick it up.  I've heard of rare cases in which a person with the same name receives a package but it actually was the wrong address and they were allowed to keep it.  However once they were informed it was not theirs to keep, they have committed a misappropriation of goods and would have to be sued in civil court to be made to return them.  This is not worth the price of the item in the package most times.

Doing the right thing I called the customer service rep and she answered, "How can I help you?"  I replied, "Today the question is how can I help you?" and explained the situation. I told her if she could call the client and get the correct address, she probably lived in the neighborhood and I would deliver them to her myself.  When the CSR returned the call, she told me the address and it was not even close to my address.  It even had a different zip code.  I told her I couldn't do as I planned and she asked me to take them back to the Post Office and return them to Lands End.  After I hung up, I googled the address and zip code and found it actually was on my way to school that day so I changed my mind and decided to deliver them after all.

I plugged the address into my Onstar and away I went knowing how important a new pair of shoes are for a "shoe person" and hoping she would really appreciate my appreciation for her need for shoes.  I drove into her gated community and was met with the security guard's questions.  "She won't know me but can you call this person and tell her I have her shoes?  She will know who I am then." I explained.  He raised his right eyebrow and did as I asked.  He then tried to tell me the directions to her house to which I explained, "Got Onstar, I'm on the route now.  Thank you but no need."  And he let me through.  As I drove up into her driveway I noticed she had a license plate holder with the BYU letters on it.  She and I had something in common, we both were going to be glued to the TV tonight because Duke was playing at 9:45 PM EST after I got out of class and BYU was playing while I was in class.

I gave her the shoes and she let me know that the company was sending her another pair.  Her lucky day!!!! Another pair of shoes.  The irony is that I don't have many shoes and I need a new pair of sneakers.  And now she will have not one shoe, not two shoes, not three shoes, but four!

We do have something in common though, we both woke up this morning after our teams played in the tournament last night. We were a little sad as we put on our shoes.  We were in good company, the BYU and Duke men's basketball team were putting their shoes on this morning too with the same sadness.  That's the sad part of any "sport or game."  Someone has to lose and some one has to win.  I always joke with my friend who loves chocolate chip cookies and is an avid Illinois Men's Basketball fan.  I text him that the opposing team is going to buy him chocolate chip cookies to eat when he loses.  Today, Arizona is buying me the chocolate chip cookies.  Got any milk?

A vigorous temper is not altogether an evil. Men who are easy as an old shoe are generally of little worth.  ~Charles Spurgeon

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 70 - Celine Dion and Las Vegas

I love Southwest Airlines.  It's like a box of chocolates as Forrest Gump would say, "You never know what you're going to get."  We did one of those crazy things like fly into Las Vegas, go to a concert, and fly out in the morning.  We literally spent ten hours flight time for a two hour and fifteen minute concert.  The first two flights were like any other airline flight.  But the third leg into Vegas, I knew we could tape the crew leader and put the video on You Tube if I wanted when he said, "For those of  you with two children, during an emergency, grab your favorite with your right hand and your other one with your left hand.  For those of you with more than two children, I just have to ask you, What were you thinking?"

The flight was great and even greater when it landed, to which our Crew Leader said, "Welcome to Lost Wages. And for those of you who don't know what that means, you will. Additionally remember to remove all your ipods, ipads, iphones, laptops, tablets etc.  And if you do leave yours behind, this nice lady sitting up front has a website you can check to see if it has been found after you have gotten home.  The website address is!"  Talk about making the mundane fun!

So we arrived, took the taxi to the hotel which we got for a heck of a bargain on  The Palms Casino for $49 a night.  Wonderful place.  It's off the strip so the you can catch a bargain, however, what you save you'll end up paying for in cab fares. If it's a short stay, this kind of deal can make a big difference.  We checked in, ate some of the best all-you-can-eat-crab at the buffet and talked about betting on an NCAA team.  Its so different even being able to just "talk" about it.  As for years, one couldn't even joke about this as an official.  I knew many officials that bet anyway and it really bothered me.  Not only that they bet on a sport that they knew as an official was not the right thing to do, but that they were bold enough to talk about it openly.  One time I remember seeing an official at the local racetrack as he went into play poker with the NCAA logo on his collared shirt! 

As it turned out, we didn't have time to bet.  Off to the show. And boy what a show it was. Celine Dion owns the stage when  she's on it.  She commands your attention and anything less than the best isn't in the same theater.  Her string bass players did a trio of Michael's Jacksons, Smooth Criminal! A violinist played so hard the horse hairs on his bow were flying everywhere. Celine made six gown changes for a total of seven different outfits all suited with a different pair of 4" heels.  How does she sing, dance, and not trip all at the same time?  We were lucky enough to get seats in the seventh row.  As the images of her family were shared with us on the projection screen, she showed the audience how much she truly was grateful for our patronage.  Isn't that what appeals to us as humans anyway, just feeling appreciated?  The right thing to do for any of us is just let someone know when they do something that we are truly thankful for.  The gratitude was reciprocated.  As she left the stage, we all stood for the encore...Like a kid who likes mom's good cooking with their plate held out....more please.

She returned to the sound of the small flute-like recorder playing the beginning of the theme to Titanic, My Heart Will Go On. I'm such an emotional person that I tried to separate my feelings from the performance the entire night knowing I would have cried through the entire performance if I had not done this. She sings in such a way that gives me goosebumps and produces such raw emotion I just can't explain it.  One has to just "feel it" for themselves.  At this point I just lost it.  The tears rolled, I knew I couldn't make it through a performance without bawling like a baby but I felt I had done my best to wait until the last performance.  Something about the whole event just made me want it to go on forever.  But we knew we couldn't just stay, and we knew she had millions of others to show her appreciation to in her next concerts.  So with reciprocated appreciation we accepted the inevitable and left with the feeling of knowing we had just made a difference in her life just as she had made a difference in ours.  It's sad when you have to leave something that you just know is so good that you are blessed to be in its presence.  Celine has this presence and made us feel special. And as her encore song is titled our hearts will go on .......forever changed from the blessing of her presence.  Thank you Celine

It was the love of loves,

the love that swallows up all else,

a grateful love,

a love of nature, of people,

of animals,

a love engendering

gentleness and goodness

that moved me

and that I saw in you.”

~William Carlos Williams

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 69 - I'm Seventeen and I Know All I Need to Know

Mitch Albom quoted on Sports Reporters that no seventeen year old knows everything.  And according to the thirty year old male that I sit next to in my class, males don't admit this until around the age of twenty-four.  That's when as he says, men start to "get it."  As a mother of two male young adult sons, there are days when I just want to hang up my hat and sing, Mama was a rollin' stone, wherever she lay her hat was her home.  And when she died....

That next line always brings me back to reality.  Ok I can't exchange my sons at the local retail store for new ones although at moments I'd like to do that.  For the protection of my sons I won't give the specifics but I will say that the first time I was in a court room I felt like I was on Candid Camera.  What am I doing here?  I never broke a law (except speeding), I tried to live my life as a good person, I'm a referee for God's Sake, I implement rules not break them.  I was embarrassed.  I am embarrassed and hopefully I won't always be embarrassed but for now I just can't break the link that bonds Mother and son.  What I mean by that, is I feel they are my extension.  What they do is a reflection on me.

Looking at the wood furniture from inside a Judge's chamber is surreal.  Using the words Your Honor are for television actors and movie actresses not me.  I don't want to be judged as a parent when they have acted in a way that isn't consistent with what I have taught my children.  When a young person commits an act of violence and it makes the news what is the first thing we ask?  "What about the parents?"  This used to be a valid question when parents, neighbors, and communities looked out for each others children.  Today this is furthest from the truth.

The fans, coaches and players don't know much about the personal lives of officials.  We are real people too.  We have families and problems and stories that aren't for the faint-hearted.  During a rough time in one of my son's life, he had runaway.  We reported him missing.  So after officiating games, I came home, took a shower and went to each of his friend's houses and knocked on doors. From 11:30 PM until 3 AM in the morning I asked other parents if they had seen my son.  They all said, they were sorry and no they hadn't.  I came home, got three hours sleep and got up to go to work and repeated this cycle for two weeks straight.  The parents were empathetic but quite frankly were sick of answering the door at wee hours in the morning. When I finally found him, not only was he at one of these same friend's houses, the mother was the Defense Attorney who was handling his case! 

The only comfort was that we were both mothers who had sons who were not doing what we had taught them.  She apologized to me and I to her.  She didn't know that her son had let my son stay in her garage.  Later I found out that other parents did in fact know and were committing a felony by harboring a runaway.  Nobody would prosecute when I called the police or as I call them "referees of our criminal system."  They would say if they didn't see it they couldn't do anything about it.  I saw my son run from the back of houses while I was knocking on the front door but because they didn't see it, no charges could be filed. As a person, I know this feeling of helplessness when offenders are protected by the rules themselves. As a referee, I have to have some evidence too.

There's a comic strip that I have enlarged and keep on a three-ring binder full of notes from basketball camps.  The comic shows a referee standing looking down at a basketball player in uniform with his hands and feet taped behind his back with duct tape.  His mouth too has duct tape on it.  The referee says to the player, "Hey, I understand your frustration, OK? But if I didn't see it happen, I can't call it."

Notice the numbers stretching

Through the years I have found that I can't see every foul, especially if a foul is committed at a closed angle.  If a post player would come to me and tell me he or she is being fouled, I ask them to put both of their hands in the air next time this happens.  I watch the match up and 100% of the time the numbers on the jersey are yanked out of proportion and I can see the evidence that allows me to blow the whistle. Technically I didn't "see the foul" but the numbers on a jersey don't change from 00 to 88 without some unnatural form of defense. The right thing to do is to acknowledge their claim and explain that you need proof.  Give the referee the evidence.

I guess that's why young adults won't listen.  We actually have done a good job of telling them to think for themselves.  Look for their own evidence.  As they experience their own life, they will try to prove to parents that we are wrong. But evidence usually rears its ugly head in the form of experience and the wisdom that's born from it. Every time they come to me and say, "Mom, I'm going to do what you told me," I smile and feel like they are "getting it."  It's just so hard not to beat some sense into them before they get to that point.  But then I have to remind myself that sitting back allows them to get their own experience and to understand that their decisions have consequences.  The right thing to do for me during these times is to tell myself they are not extensions of me at all until they mature.  If only parents were allowed to give out technical fouls and send their kids to the bench of life until their twenty-fourth birthday.

Maturity is that time when the mirrors in our mind turn to windows and instead of seeing the reflection of ourselves we see others. ~Unknown

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 68 - Winning Really? - Loser

In college I began to read the news magazine Newsweek. They had offered me a discount as a college student to subscribe for $10 a year.  I realize I'm dating myself here, but it was a good deal. I first started reading the magazine to keep up with the Gulf War.  It was the first war of my lifetime and as much as I learned being glued to CNN twenty-four hour coverage, I knew I couldn't find out about the human interest side of the war via the television.

Over the years, Newsweek has done that for me, filled in the gaps.  I've been through two design changes.  The first one was hard because the font type was too small to see with my aging eyes.  I was asked to be on the reader council and was asked to participate in surveys regarding the layout and content of the magazine.  I tried to ask myself if I was feeling uncomfortable because it was change or if I really didn't like the new designs.  The former became the truth. As with other aspects of life, I began to like the new changes and adopt them as my own.  With the exception of the smaller font size.  Luckily for me, they listened to my concerns and the font changed back to the original size and style.

I worried that Newsweek would not survive my lifetime but was pleasantly surprised when it was bought for $1 and Tina Brown became the new editor.  Under her leadership, she has changed the design once again and made the font size smaller.  She wrote in her first Editor's article to the readers about leaving the magazine news industry to join the internet news website called The Daily Beast because she felt people would ultimately get their news from the web.  Through time, she learned that the public actually needs both types of news.  The news magazines fill in the gaps that the short sentences they get from the RSS feeds.  She has returned to help do this.

This week was my third issue under her leadership and I was reading the article about Charlie Sheen and his "winning!" campaign.  I had to put down the magazine and walk away as what I saw was a change that I can't believe.  On page 43 the editors approved the use of the word "Fucking" and it wasn't even to report what someone else said as a cuss word.  I can try to be hip but this just turns my stomach.  The right thing to do for me was to voice my disapproval so I sent an e-mail to the editor of Newsweek as follows:

Dear Editors,
I have been a loyal reader since college almost thirty years now.  I am deeply disappointed that an editor would approve a story (on page 43) that used the word "Fucking" to go to print when it wasn't even used reporting a cuss word but as a verb describing the actual physical sexual act.  I can't seriously read Newsweek as the "news" magazine I have admired for years.  This is a new low for me.  Why don't you just change the name of the magazine to "Fncking News?" if you're going to keep reporting with this kind language, it doesn't fncking matter anyway. [I've substituted an upside down u so as not to offend anyone.]

BJ Winchester

Really?  Even the programmers of WATSON rewrote the programming to filter out words when he responded with an answer "What is @#$%?" The right thing to do for me is to to examine my uneasiness and see if I adopt the changes as I have done before.  Or maybe the right thing for me to do is to see how I feel with a little more Time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 67 - WATSON From Drink to THINK

Q: So how did the engineers and programmers at IBM come up with the name Watson for their computer that was trained to play the game Jeopardy? 

A: There was lots of debate within IBM about Watson’s name and image. How human should it be? Many worried that the public would view Watson as scary: a machine that learns our secrets and steals our jobs. So they decided to limit Watson’s human qualities. They would give its friendly, masculine voice a machine-like overtone. And its face, if you could call it that, would simply be a circular avatar—no eyes, nose or mouth, just streaming patterns representing flowing data. Despite these choices, I’ve noticed that fellow Jeopardy players immediately start to respond to Watson as another human—and not necessarily a friendly one. It’s playing the game, after all. And it usually beats them.

Watson's LCD Face
Thomas J. Watson
As far as the name, IBM entertained loads of possibilities. They considered THINQ, Ace, even EureQA, a blend of Eureka with QA, for question answering. In the end, they picked Watson, for IBM’s founder, Thomas J. Watson. In the literary world, it also fit into the stories of Sherlock Holmes, a master question-answerer. Of course, in those stories, Watson was only the assistant to the true genius. But considering the widespread fears surrounding smart computers, maybe it made sense to name the question-answering machine after Holmes’ plodding number two.

This was taken from the review of the book Jeopardy: Man vs Machine by Stephen Baker who chronicled the task of IBM to build such a computer with Artificial Intelligence.  I heard about the show trying to capture younger audiences with this new computer Watson as the average age of the audience is now sixty-five.  What better way to do this than technology?  I then heard a podcast of NPR interviewing Stephen Baker after the airing of the final show.  So I had missed the actual show.  So being the curious person that I am, I watched it on you tube.

I have to say that at first I was afraid as it reminded me too much of Skynet from the Terminator move and television series.  Skynet is the pseudo name for the internet in which computers begin to think for themselves and hunt down any enemy that opposes it - all the humans.  Since computers communicate to other computers globally in milliseconds, they always had the upper hand.  Like I do with most fear I tried to see if it is real.  I started by doing a little research.  Basically the IBM team broke down the human sentence structure to the smallest variable and taught Watson this structure.  He was taught how to think like a human brain. The first questions took two WATSON hours to answer one question.  So we can truly appreciate the human brain and what is going on between our ears.  The engineers basically built a database and a program to retrieve bits of that data.  The facts had to be in WATSON in order for it to get to it. So it is not really Artificial Intelligence in theory.

This is how fear works.  We fear because we do not understand.  Once we understand something it doesn't seem as frightening.  The right thing to do when we fear a person or a situation or event is to break it down into its smallest parts.  I heard Pete Dominic on POTUS the other day and he said, "Often times I think I'm right about a view I have regarding politics and then I hear the  argument from the other side which is broken down into something I hadn't heard before. It often becomes clear to me that the more I know, the more I realize I don't know."  Pete also does a good job of understanding the issues of politics and can breakdown arguments of people who use FEAR instead of facts to discuss topics.  Using Fear to debate is a tactical tool as FEAR only makes the opponent more emotional and thus the opponent tends to argue with less rationale.

Try this next time you watch the News promo with one-liners for the upcoming news broadcast; after every promo sentence, shout "FEAR" after every sentence.  "Are your children doing things on the internet when you're not home?" FEAR. "Find out what the local news team spotted on the predator registry today. Is a sexual predator living in your neighborhood?" FEAR. "We could be getting another snow storm tonight, tune into watch." FEAR.  It's intoxicating.  One must recognize there is a thin line growing between news and propaganda with this technique.

Watson was named for the founder of IBM: Thomas J. Watson. He knew a few things about intoxication. After his first job making $10 a week ($10 -a series of ones and zeros), he moved up as a salesperson to his second major job making $100 a week.  He celebrated one night at a saloon and became drunk.  He went out in the parking lot to find everything gone, his product that he was selling, his car, everything. So as a founder he instituted a policy at IBM that alcohol was not allowed. Period.  One wonders if on February 14, 2011, the day WATSON won Jeopardy, if he might have celebrated with one glass of champagne. Can you imagine your namesake winning on Jeopardy

Thomas J. Watson registered the slogan "THINK" at IBM.  It is written on every wall in every room within the organization. The internal newsletter is called Think.  I'm sure there's an article in Think that asks the jeopardy question: "The binary code 01010100 01001000 01001001 01001110 01001011" The answer is: What is THINK?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 66 - Referees officiate, Coaches coach, Sometimes

The smart coaches in the world know that the only place that they don't have any say is on the court during a game.  It must be hard after hearing all week long, Coach, when is practice, Coach, do you want me to do the laundry for the away game, Coach what defense do we play on this team, Coach what time should we be here to catch the bus, etc. etc. and then during a game a coach doesn't have control. In fact sometimes on the court, they are in a position of being told what or what not to do by a referee.  It's hard for those few moments in time and as an official I get that.  But like I said it's the smart coaches who get it too. The right thing to do in these circumstances is to respect the hierarchy of authority.  The smart coaches also know the game is not always about winning.

I wanted to still be a part of the game. So I started out coaching. I was blessed the first year as a YMCA coach with an 0-10 team.  That's right, my coaching skills were so good in fact that I didn't win a single game.  Yup and I'm proud of it because I won something bigger than that.  God gave me a twelve year old girl who had a condition called Fragile-X.  She was mentally slow and her joints didn't work like ours.  For example if she went to catch a ball, her wrists wouldn't stay in position so she may muffle the ball and her wrists would bend in a manner that we wouldn't be comfortable watching.  The parents and girls cried our last game because our Fragile-X girl had gotten fouled at the end of our last game.  She was standing on the free throw line and was bounced the ball by the referee.  I turned to make sure that her mother was watching and I heard everyone go crazy!  She made it!  I missed it but I will never forget the moment.  What was more important was that her mother saw her do it. Coaching is hard work and I respect coaches.

That being said, there is one coach that has been a part of my career from the beginning.  One of my  first high school games, a partner referee actually grabbed me so hard on the court that I have photos of my black and blue mark on my arm.  The crowd gave a collective gasp as they saw this unfold.  I didn't know what to do as I never thought I should have to worry about my partner being my enemy on the court.  The coach was giving my partner a hard time and quite frankly my partner was a hard ass and wanted me to take his "side."  This coach ended up getting ejected from the game but due to my own issues with my partner I actually thought the coach had some valid points about his ejection.  This was Coach Bannister and how our relationship started.  With an ejection. Now knowing Coach Bannister, I will preface this story by saying I think he comes across as a "nice person" off the court and I respect how his program secures Division 1 scholarships for his girls.

He coached his daughter's AAU team during the summer also.  On the way to an out of town tournament, I recognized him and his car along the side of the road with about five other cars.  I stopped to see if he needed help.  He said he was going to a local tournament and didn't know how to get there.  I asked where he was going and as it happens I was going to the same venue and would be officiating his game.  He and his carpool could just follow me.  This was the girls first game ever in a tournament and they not only won that game, they won the entire tournament!

The following year I was sent to Minnesota for the 13 and under National AAU tournament as a National AAU official.  I was surprised to see Coach Bannister's team had made it to the national tournament.  He was a coach that was notorious for being hard to manage but if you stuck to your guns and treated him with respect, you could usually keep him in the game.  My partner came in to the locker room after officiating his last game of that tournament and told us why he had ejected Coach Bannister.  Coach Bannister accused him of being racist while officiating the game!  Flagrant Technical, automatic ejection for egregious unsportsmanlike conduct. So the history of ejections was started.

Coach ended up getting ejected from two more of my games.  He rebelled and now that he had five AAU teams, he threatened to boycott local AAU tournaments if I officiated his games.  As a result I lost the ability to officiate in some tournaments and he taught the girls that when things don't go your way, instead of changing your behavior to show good sportsmanship and showing accountability, get revenge on the referees.  Other officials continued to let him get away with his antics on the court, rather than hold up to the oath we take as officials not to let a game become a travesty.

He moved to the Jacksonville's Potter House (a Christian School) and coached his girls to the FHSAA championships.  The FHSAA found out that he had held illegal practices, one of which they showed up to witness themselves and sanctioned him along with erasing the girls record of 22-0.  Another game was ended after the parents and fans were asked to vacate the bleachers between the Potters House team and another christian school. This week at the NCSAA (National Christian Championship for High School) championship game, the game was called a travesty and halted.  The teams got into a brawl as did the fans.  Girls were taunting the opponents benches. So this coach was in the middle of another heated game. No surprise there.  Just that in a different state, those officials weren't ready for him.

So at what point do we hold coaches accountable?  If the NCSAA really cared about the Christian values of sports, they would disbar Coach Bannister for a lifetime.  He has had more than ample chances to change his behavior.  If somebody would just take a coach such as this coach and take him off the court, then and only then, will he start to change.  He has manipulated the system for years and slipped through the cracks continuing to teach young girls that if you don't like something in life, seek revenge to seek the ultimate goal of winning. This year they traveled around the USA competing and winning most of the fifty games they did they have time to study?

As I said, I know coaching is hard.  The minutes are long and the sacrifices large.  But in the end there are great rewards that you get from knowing you are being a positive influence in a young person's life.  But there is an even greater reward for showing your team that coaches respect officials and authority. It is the right thing to do. Ultimately the officials will respect these kind of coaches too. The ones with wisdom for accepting the things they can't (or shouldn't be able to) change.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 65 - No "I" in Team

The more I learn about computers the more I'm convinced my theory is right.  I believe that a co-worker was spying on me via my computer.  I had returned from a vacation to one of my work stations.  For this particular job I had multiple roles so I needed to use three computers on the network.  At the station was a piece of paper laying beside the computer with my social security number on it.  This scared me because it wasn't my writing, it was actually my managers.  I had suspected some back door dealings between my manager and a co-worker prior to this but couldn't explain why.

As I started to look through the hard drives of computers I found a chain of the network and how all the computers were routed through one in the back room.  This computer had the side of the case off of it with a box of software sitting beside it.  The guts were exposed and an additional hard drive was mounted inside of it. I started eliminating possibilities of my paranoia one by one and noticed that I couldn't eliminate any computers from this process. For example, Macs are not known for being computers that people can easily install and execute spyware on.  But as I  looked I noticed a program on all the macs that showed every single screen shot of each mouse click throughout the entire day.  Essentially the co-worker, Mike, could see anything I did on this machine all day long.

I then started digging into my computer and my e-mail.  I thought at least my e-mail is safe.  I found that my inbox had been cloned and that there was an unnamed additional user who had access to my e-mail.  I deleted all the users except myself.  Well at least I thought I had deleted all the other users until I noticed that every time I received an e-mail that a beep went off on my co-workers phone who sat in the cubicle beside me.  I must be imagining things, I will do a test and send myself an e-mail I thought.  As soon as the e-mail came in I heard the co-workers phone beep again.  I'M RIGHT, I'm not imagining this. 

I started to panic, how am I going to prove this?  I don't know enough about computers.  I drew up a schematic of how the computers were all tied together.  At lunch, I searched Mike's desk and found receipts that were laying out in the open of purchases of software that could be used to set up VPNs.  A Virtual Private Network essentially allows anyone to access the network at the office from their home or cell phone.  I asked my co-worker Mike after returning from lunch if he could access the computers at night from home. He proudly boasted, "Yes, I do it all the time." I asked how he could do that and he told me I would need permission from the manager to do this.  I asked the manager if I could do this too.  He told me, "I don't think you have any need to do this from home. So not right now."  As an assistant manager who was usually called in the night to solve a problem, I of all people would be the ONE person who would need this.  I asked him, "Are you able to log on at night?"  He said, "Yes."  I asked, "Can Mike do it?"  He said, "Yes."  I asked the obvious, why would Mike have the permission to do so and not me?  I was given the excuse, "He needs access to the mainframe as he is our pseudo network guy at this offsite facility."

Are you kidding me? I knew something wasn't right.  I felt like the manger was in on it and I couldn't send any e-mails to HR as they had my e-mail cloned and would see what I sent.  Doing the right thing was to gather the evidence and make an appointment to go to HR.  I resigned as the Assistant Manager while building my case as I felt at the time this would show that I didn't want any part of this.  I wanted to go back to just being an average worker as the stress of having a co-worker undermine me for a position that I deserved and he undeservedly wanted, was not worth my health.  I have learned throughout my career stress can do bad things to one's body. By the time I got to HR and told them the story, they accused me of doing this for spite because I didn't do it while I was the Asst. Manager.  Wait a minute, what about checking the computers first before listening to me about something an INSURANCE company would be liable for?

I could see that I was being railroaded. I invited the IT people to come and look at the history of the computers.  They showed up one day and Mike was clearly nervous.  They interviewed he and I independently of each other.  I explained that he had switched out my computer with another one and I knew this because I had different desktops on each one and the desktop was the one from the other room.  Why would someone want to exchange computers from another room in the first place? Mine wasn't broken. They looked at the User group and said no additional user was granted permissions. I explained that I deleted him as a user because I didn't want him to see my e-mails.  They told me I should not have done that.  I lost the proof.  I was just trying to save my sanity. I didn't think about having to prove this as I was just trying to alleviate the espionage. They told me they couldn't find any evidence and left.

The next day I took a photo of the additional hard drive on the computer that Mike had all apart in the back room and was gaining access to at night.  I waited until lunch time and sent an e-mail to IT and HR with the attached photo and explained that this is how he was doing it.  When I returned from lunch, the computer case was put back together and the hard drive and additional software removed from the computer.  So the computer had been like this for over sixty days and just miraculously within one hour of me sending photos and an e-mail proving the hardware and software existed enabling him to do what I had accused him of doing, the hardware and software suddenly disappeared?

Within two weeks, they notified us that the offsite facility was being closed. We were losing our jobs.  I'm sure this was already in the works, I just moved the decision along a little faster.  I now know that going to HR in big corporations will not make a difference unless you have a Mentor who can help you outside the department. Preferably it would be your manager but as you see, it is not always possible. When you don't have the support of your manager, you might as well find another job.  This I learned through experience.  Going around the manager only makes it look like you are not a "team" player.  The false logic is that there is a real "team" at all in the beginning.  I know there is no I in team but there is not I in "sabotage" either.

Sometimes knowing you are right is the only right thing to happen in this situation. The more you try to explain, the crazier you begin to sound.  People who don't understand computers start to think the person bringing attention to the issue is somewhat paranoid. This is a big reason why I'm currently studying computers and networking security.  I'll be able to explain how Mike tried to sabotage me when I'm done as I have kept all the documentation.  I may not be able to do anything about that particular situation, but eventually I'll be in a position that I can protect someone else from the same victimization.  There may be no "I" in team but there are two "I's" in "victim" and three "I's" in "liability".

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