Sunday, December 30, 2007

Twitter Me


Twitter is a the next big thing that is happening now. It's like instant messaging in 3-D and without being instant. Like text messaging on your phone when no one answers. I'm really not sure why it's becoming so popular, but there is a buzz surrounding it. I fully expect Google or some other big company to swallow it soon. I bet you could make some nice change if you invested in Twitter.

Here's another goofy application


She is your virtual personal assistant. She will email you reminders of appointments. I actually would tend to use email reminders. I've tried PDA's and can never seem to find the time or patience to enter all of my appointments into a calendar. However, I'm always using email. It would be very easy to fire off an email to Sandy and have her email me reminder emails for my appointments.

Anyway...back to my Lizard Avatar in Second Life. Hiss Hiss

Friday, December 28, 2007

Science Friday on Second Life

I'm sitting in a virtual world with a big white rabbit and some other very strange looking creatures in my Second Life world waiting for the beginning of Science Friday with Ira Flatow. This virtual world is a little like Alice in Wonderland on crack, too.

Here's what it looks like

I'm just outside the picture. My Avatar has red hair and green dragon scaled skin with a tye-dyed shirt and black pants w/white socks.

Life is strange.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Children's Story

Children’s Story

Dateline: Somalia - Late 1992 and 1993

U.S. Marine and Ranger units, at the urging of the United Nations, establish a presence at the Mogadishu airport. From there they struggle to maintain civil order and deliver food supplies to a starving population. Along with the famine, all semblances of local civil government and authority had long before evaporated. Chaos rules and lawlessness is the weapon of choice.

My sister and I took my mother to a local hospital earlier today for a routine ultra-sound test. My mother had recently suffered from a very nasty stomach virus, and her doctor wanted to peek at her kidneys to make sure they looked sound after the illness.

I escorted my mother into the first waiting room while my sister parked the car. The receptionist didn’t really say anything to us other than, “Have a seat over there.” So we sat down beside a beautifully decorated artificial Christmas tree near the front of the room. Above us in the corner of the waiting room was a television that was showing the last few minutes of the CBS Morning Show and then Regis and Kelly. Kelly was showing off her fitness routine and flashing her tight work-out outfit which accented her tight abs as well as her muscular shoulders and biceps. She was sort of loud, and I had no volume control to make her get quiet.

Across from us was a gray-haired lady sitting in a wheelchair quietly reading a newspaper and beside her was her daughter who seemed to be looking toward the corner of the waiting room off to my right. Sitting to my right a couple of seats down was a trim lady who was probably in her thirties. She was involved in an intense conversation with a man to her right sitting in the corner. He was obviously the object of attention for the lady across from me as well.

After my mother settled in, my attention was drawn to the conversation that the man in the corner and the lady next to him were having. It was most amazing.

The man was obviously a soldier. He was a rather short but very stocky guy with military tattoos on his thick biceps. He wore desert camouflage shorts and an Army Ranger camouflage hat. What made him stand out, besides the animated style in which he was telling his story to that stranger in the waiting room, was the large white neck brace he wore. How he came to wear that brace and other details from his life revealed in the fifteen minutes I audited (with their tacit approval) their conversation comprises an amazing tale.

The man, who I’m calling Waldron, is/was an Army Ranger. He was injured severely when he “fell out of a plane” not too long ago. I took that to mean that he was doing parachute jump training and had a mishap. He survived the fall but sustained a broken neck and had his back fractured in three places. He said that he had over thirty rods and many pins holding him together. At one point in the conversation, he removed his neck collar and showed us a vertical surgical scar that ran all the way down his back.

It was at that point that I stood up and interrupted the conversation to let them know that I was listening and asked him where he was stationed when he was injured. He said that it was a training exercise at Fort Belvoir. U.S. Army Reserve units routinely train there.

Waldron continued with his story. He seemed so upbeat and positive despite obviously dealing with injuries that cause him constant pain. The pain that he suffers is nothing, he told us, compared to his experiences in Somalia back in 1993. He was part of an Army Reserve force (most likely MP’s as I think that was the group that deployed from Virginia) that took part in the 28,000 troop humanitarian mission to restore order and feed the starving millions in Somalia.

Waldron told us that the Marines had established a beachhead at the airport in Mogadishu and then secured the whole compound with razor wire fencing. A few days after the initial thrust, his group landed at the airport and began their mission. Waldron said that on the first day they were there, they were immediately struck by the horrible physical condition of the people that stood outside the airport compound fence. These soldiers from Virginia had never seen the full effects of famine. On one side of the fence, the soldiers had all the food and supplies that they needed and much, much more. Yet on the other side of the fence, children were starving to death right before their eyes.

The airport facility was very secure with regular patrols coupled with a tall razor wire fence surrounding the compound. However, Waldron told us that he and his friends noticed a section of fence which had a very small hole at the base. This wasn’t a large hole by any stretch of the imagination, but it was large enough to pass items to the other side. So he and his buds gathered up all the extra food from their rations along with any other food stuff they could find and began sliding it all through the hole to a few starving children on the other side.

The next day, more children showed up at the hole, and they repeated the same ritual. This went on for a couple of days. Each day, more children would show up, and the soldiers would do the best they could to send them food through the hole. After a few days, Waldron said he noticed that some of the boys who had been coming back day after day had obviously been beaten. They had cuts all over their faces and black eyes. Concerned, Waldron found a boy who spoke some broken English and asked the kid what had happened to him. The child told him that their parents had found out that they had been eating and not bringing the food home to share. The parents took their displeasure out on them.

Waldron didn’t leave Mogadishu the way he intended. Based on what he told us, what happened to end his Somali tour might have occurred on that fateful October day in 1993 that has since been immortalized in the movie “Black Hawk Down” or it may have happened during a regular city patrol. I wasn’t sure which. He said it was his own stupid fault. He simply froze.

On that day, Waldron was on an urban patrol in the streets of Mogadishu. Every movement on the streets and in the shadows was important to note. He said you have to see everything and be prepared to react instantly to danger or perceived danger. As he turned one corner, he came face-to-face with a young boy, no more than ten years-old. The kid was smiling at him and holding an automatic weapon. For a second, he thought of his own boy back home in Virginia who was about the same age, and in that instant, that smiling child shot Waldron in the stomach. “It was my own stupid fault.” I noticed tears forming in his eyes as he told us that he managed to raise his weapon and shoot the kid before the kid could finish him off.

I looked away from Waldron at that moment, to give him a moment with his quiet thoughts. The lady next to him was shaking her head and crying. She reached her hand across the empty chair between them and placed her hand on his. The lady across the room was shaking her head sadly from side-to-side. The image he painted of that ten year-old boy smiling at him will stay with me forever.

Moments after Waldron told us his tale, he was called by the receptionist and taken for his MRI. I stopped him as he was leaving and wished him well thanking him for the story. He looked back and said with an upbeat voice, “Thanks man. You take care.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007


A reflection on the 2007 Virginia Tech football campaign


"More importantly, to focus on the national championship is to take the enjoyment out of a great season like the one we just witnessed, a season in which players, coaches, and fans all grew and changed for the better."

Will Stewart of said it well. My "malaise," however, was intense and deeply embedded. Here's what I said about it back on September 16:

“I suppose I could lay part of the blame on the tragedy of April 16 or perhaps on the interjection of big business into college football …Maybe that’s what it is. The Innocence of Virginia Tech seems to have been replaced by the Corporation of Virginia Tech. In response, Football just doesn’t seem to be as important to me this year, and that’s an empty thought all by itself.”

I felt then and feel to this day that the Corporation of Virginia Tech working counter to the Energy of Virginia Tech. Early in the season, I was feeling boxed in by rules and regulations. The protagonist in that memorable 1970 Five Man Electrical Band song, “Signs,” captures my state of being earlier in the year.

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign

Stop sticking it in, no more Hokie Club donations to the Marching Virginians; Hokie Respect crammed down my throat. I felt smothered by a Big Brother who seemed only interested in lifting cash for inflated season tickets and $4.00 Cokes out of my wallet.

Then something happened. The crowd grumbled about all the “respect” and the administration seemed to back off a bit. With “Stick It In” gone, the students began exploring fresh, new ways to raise the enthusiasm level in the stands. Reinventing yourself as a fan base keeps stagnation at bay. I cut back from two $4.00 Cokes to just one per game.

Then Tyrod (Taylor-QB) got hurt. Sean (Glennon-QB) reentered the “Team” with a fresh outlook and a newfound fearlessness. Suddenly, the focus of the fans began to turn away from the dark practices of Corporate VT and focused instead on the raw beauty and innocence of the game.

Each game meant something. Every player needed to step up to a new level. Fans were called on by the team to be there with unbridled support. Who can forget standing and screaming in the BC rain for three and a half hours and being hoarse for a week afterwards? It was like the old days of innocence when everything was new and a challenge. In the case of that BC game, things didn’t work out in our favor, but we as a united team did not give up. The same intensity was there for the FSU and Miami games. Then we overflowed Scott Stadium capitalizing on their foolish “Orange Effect Day,” turning it into quite a lovely “Orange and Maroon Effect Day.” The ACC championship game was played on that same razor’s edge. Thrilling and victorious. Malaise wiped away by unfiltered energy.

I’m so glad we found ourselves this year on so many levels. After such a horrific spring, we were blessed by a special football season. In no way does a good football season erase the pain of April 16, but in a small way it has given us all a diversion. I worry that Corporate Virginia Tech will not back down for long, however. I’m not sure we can count on such a special season every year to save us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Almost in the Spirit

About the last thing on my mind lately has been blogging.

Christmas spirit has come slowly to me this year. I did force myself outside to string together a few chains of lights on the bushes in front of my house. I was moved almost to the spirit as I followed an Isuzu Rodeo down the road the other day as it hauled a Christmas tree home...

I followed the SUV right to their house and watched as kids tumbled out and into the house for hot chocolate. A young husband, a smiling wife, two laughing kids. I walked into the garage with dad and watched as he prepared the tree to bring in. His two kids were racing around him spilling globs of hot chocolate all over the concrete garage floor as he readied the stand. Then when the moment was right, he hoisted the tree into the living room. I watched quietly in the corner as he and his wife strung lights around it. The kids were reaching for the ornaments as soon as the lights began going up, so the smiling mom had to keep telling them to be patient. When all was electrified, the kids began placing their favorite ornaments.

"This one's mine. I made it a long time ago," said the oldest boy.

Mom replied, "Yes, that's one of our favorites."

"This one's mine!" The littlest one said.

"Yes sweetie, it is."

They all danced as they loaded the tree with ornaments.

They were all so happy. They were all so joyful.

After the angel topped the tree, I slipped out of their house as invisibly as I had entered and drove away.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

College Football Chaos

College Football Chaos

Nuts to the 2007 College Football Season

The college football season is coming to an end, and as I sit here on this Sunday morning, there are people gnashing their teeth over perceived slights and others selling rosewater to the masses. Who will play in the big championship game in January? This is only a question today because Missouri and West Virginia, the two top ranked football teams in the country, both lost last night in their final regular season games.

USC has no business laying claim to the title game. Pete Carrol, their coach, claims he’s not politicking but then complains that their troubles this year (losing to a 40 point underdog-Stanford) stemmed from adversity...all teams face adversity.

LSU has an argument, but you can't escape the fact that they had a late season loss to an unranked opponent (Arkansas). Their other loss was also to an unranked opponent (Kentucky). Adversity? You bet, but every team faces adversity.

Ohio State has less of an argument for the title game. They play in a weakened conference and only played one ranked opponent all year. They had the luxury of feasting on lesser competition and sitting on the sidelines while other teams slugged it out in conference title games. Whichever team plays OSU will be drooling at the opportunity.

Georgia, technically, should slide up the ladder, but the whole "not winning the conference" thing is a major roadblock...even though Richt is quick to point out that there is no rule against it. They had some adversity early in the year that led directly to their two losses (young QB, young O-line), but all the teams (except Ohio St.) faced adversity.

Kansas is being overlooked, and rightly so. They lost head up to Missouri and really shouldn't be ranked where they are to start.

Oklahoma is playing powerful football now, but you can't run away from the past. They lost to two unranked teams they should have beaten, Colorado and Texas Tech. How can that be ignored?

Now as you might know, I have a bias toward Virginia Tech. Admittedly, I am passionate about my school. My years as an undergrad at VT grow more romanticized in my mind and dearer to me as I grow older and older. Yet, even though VT is in the mythical national championship hunt, I can’t see them as being chosen for the marquee game.

VT certainly can't seem to run away from the past. Getting pasted by a monster that doesn't exist anymore is hard for the nation to forget. If LSU and VT were the same teams they were back in September, I'd vote LSU in the game in a heart-beat. But they aren't. Injuries and discontinuity have made LSU a shell of it's former team (a very strong shell though). VT faced adversity like the other teams, even more than most. They had to overcome real offensive issues and find a way to win while they healed (Ore) and learned (O-line). Toss into the mix QB changes and major injuries to key players (Center, tackle, linebacker, and qb ) and you would have to wonder how we even survived.

Our schedule saved us. It was weak up the middle when we were struggling to find our identity. I would even argue that our recent four game roll was over paper teams. GT, FSU, Miami, and UVA were teams that all had issues. GT was over-rated with a Pop Warner QB, Miami and FSU were storied traditional powers on the skids, and France held a paper ranking after sucking on lollipops all season. They sucked on those lollipops a long time each game while most real teams would have crunched the suckers quickly.

In the end, I'm pleased as punch that Virginia Tech is where they a BCS Bowl and in the discussion for the MNC, but I don't think they deserve the big game. The thing is, I don't think there is a team that deserves to play in the MNC this year. I hope the whole thing gets so muddled that the NCAA will have to go to a playoff scheme.