Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Walking the Talk

If you're going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Isnt that how that saying goes? Something like that. Well all this season, my buddy Gregg who plays on another team in the Tuesday "A" Division, has been counting down the weeks until his team, Menace FC, plays my team, U Wish. Finally, seven weeks into the season it was time for our match up. The past weeks have been filled with taunts, trash talk and score predictions from Gregg. Despite his team having a "not-so-hot" season, he saw no way they could lose to us. He had two predictions. First, his team would win the match. Secondly, I would not score a goal or be effective in the game because he would be covering me. Well, 8:15pm on April 26th arrived and it was time to walk the talk.

Immediatly from kick off, it was clear his team had their hands full. With all six Menace FC players back defending, left little for any attack. Several of our shots just missed hitting the back of the net. A bit later, they were able to get the ball down to our end of the field. In a scramble, their striker got off a quick sharp angled shot that beat our keeper, scoring the first goal of the match. That sparked us to up the pressure. Minutes later, a Menace FC defender scrambles to clear a bouncing ball away from me in their penalty box. But he mis-times his approach to the ball and his arms knock it to the ground. The ref calls the foul and awards us a free kick at the top of the penalty box. In our league, this isnt a penalty shot like in normal outdoor soccer. We get a direct free kick, but they can make a defensive wall to stop the shot. They set up their wall, but only put 2 players in it! Sahal takes the free kick and easily bends the shot around the 2-man wall and into the back of the net! 1-1!

As the game wore on, Menace FC was playing a better match than I thought they would. At one point we took a 3-1 lead, but late in the first half they fought back to tie it up. The half time whistle blew with the score 4-4. We weren't worried. We pressed the attack in the early 2nd half and scored another goal putting us up 5-4. I thought that might hold, but they later scored a goal I couldn't believe got by our keeper, 5-5. Its ok, plenty of time left!

Mid-second half I was back on the field and their keeper had collected the ball. He rolled it out to their defender so he could bring it up the field. As I ran towards him to try to steal the ball, I happen to look up at his eyes. Right then he looks over at the other defender and then sends a pass over towards him. But, exactly the moment he looked in that direction, I jumped into the open passing lane. The ball was at my feet and I was off the the races, a break away!! I left the 2 defenders in my dust and charged forwards towards the lonely goal keeper. One quick fake and I pushed the ball to my left. I can see the goalie lunging at an open space where I once was as I ran by him. I fire a left foot shot which hits the far lower corner of the net. Goal! 6-5. This was the back breaker for Menace FC. We kept the pressure up and scored 2 more goals before the final whistle. Winning the match 8-5. Gregg was humble in a post game ribbing. It was all in fun though.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Door to Door Dork

Last weekend my friend James and I are just hanging out watching TV, when I see a van stop infront of my house and a lady get out. She starts walking up to my door, so I get up to answer it as she rings the doorbell. She begins to rattle off something about a contest she's in and that she just needs to vacum 25 rooms during the weekend to be eligible for a prize. I ask her to repeat it one more time to make sure I caught everything she was trying to say. Then she says that if I let her vacum a room in my house, she'll give me a bottle of laundry detergent. I thought, what the heck... have at it. I begin to turn and walk back to the couch when I see her wave to the plain white van with black windows she got out of. Suddenly, a neatly dressed guy jumps out carrying a large box and begins walking towards my door. He follows her in and introduces himself. I can't even remember his name, so I'll call him "jim". The lady that came in first then says, "Ok im going to turn you over to jim now. I'll be back to pick him up when he's finished". I suddenly thought, "uh-oh". I close the door behind her and look back at jim. With a big goofy smile he looks at me and says "Thorpe, have you ever heard of a Kirby vacuum cleaners?" At that point I was past "uh-oh" and had moved into "ooooh crap". I had been tricked into letting a cheese-ball salesman into my living room. At this point, I should have stopped him from continueing to speak and told him to leave. But I didn't, I was too nice and let him keep talking. I had hope that he would wrap things up in about 20 minutes and be on his way. That was not to be. Before I knew it, one hour had gone by. He was still demonstrating the "features" of this vacuum cleaner. He was repeadedly showing me how it created a suction between the carpet and the cleaner head. He looks at me for agreement, wanting me to be amazed and ask him what I had to do to buy one now!! Instead, I replied half jokingly "well, this thing really does indeed suck." I laugh, he didn't. But I didnt care. I was getting pretty ticked by this point.

Finally "jim" show's me his book with the contest info, vacuum cleaner sales points...... and the price. This freaking piece O crap kirby vacuum cleaner is $2000!!! Two thousand dollars!! Im sorry, but there is now way in hell Im buying a vacuum cleaner for two grand. Yet, jim would not take no for an answer. He just couldnt believe I didnt mind having a "filthy house" and that I was willing to let my carpet become quickly deteriorated by the dirt left in the padding by my inferior vacuum cleaner. It was like he was personally offended the more I said no to his offer I couldn't refuse. His sales lines turned to almost begging. Begging turned to frustration and finally, two hours from the time he walked in my door... he was ready to leave. But first, he had the nerve to ask to use my phone to call his boss to pick him up. I say, "don't you have a cell phone?!" He just says no and stands there looking at me. I say "fine" and hand him my phone. He gets his boss on the phone and begins to what sounds like break the news that he didn't make a sale. It sounds like he's getting yelled at. It takes all of my self control not to break out laughing at him. He then puts my phone down on the couter and says "now Thorpe, Im going to write a number down on a piece of paper, tell me if this is something you can afford. Its a Saturday only price!". I look at the paper... $1300. Umm.... still no, buddy. He finishes asking for his pick up ride and hangs up. Jim, my friendly piece-O-crap salesman, turns from happy and "friendly" to quiet and angery. He packes up his $2000 work of art and finally leaves. James and I are relieved to have him gone and our day back.

Lesson learned, if a kirby or any other salesman comes to my door without me inviting them, shoot first. I recommend you do the same.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Grande "Lack Of" Communications

For almost 2 years while living at my apartment, I used Grande Communications for my phone and internet. Oh how they have fallen out of favor with me now. About two weeks before moving from my apartment, to my new house, I call them up to notify them of my upcoming change. Their customer support guy takes my information and tells me everything is in and the service should go live on the day I need it to. Great! Im all set. I then tell him I will also need my DSL internet to be moved on the same day. He begins looking for my account information, but cannot find it anywhere in his records. He asks me, "are you sure you have DSL internet?" I tell him, yes... I am sure of it. Turns out, somehow my internet account got listed as a business account handled by a different department. I'll have to call back to get that changed. So a couple days later I finally get through to that department and get that transfered on the same day as my phone stuff. Now... I am all set.

I move into my house and thank goodness, there is a dial tone. I have a phone. The next day, the DSL technician is there to hook up my internet. Im online again and life is good. But things were only good for about 3 days. I quickly find out my phone features like call waiting and caller ID are not turned on! So, back on the phone with Grande customer support. He says that he can see the order was entered but somehow didnt get all the features transfered to the new address. Um.. ok. Strike one. He turns them on for me and phone-wise, im back in business.

Then the real fun starts. And with it, the start of the downward spiral of my faith in Grande Communications. I come home from work the next day to find out I have no internet connectivity. My first thought is maybe there is a problem with the Grande network and their DSL service has been interupted in my area. My system worked just fine the night before when I shut everything down. I quickly double check all my settings, modem and equipment to make sure its still set up as it should be. Everything is the same as always and should be working. So I call up Grande tech support. I ask him if there is something going on in my area and he tells me there are no known problems. I tell him whats going on and of course he tells me to "reboot my computer and that should do it". To humor him, I do it. He then walks me thru the level 1 tech routine of resetting the modem and removing any routers that are connected. Oddly enough, I can connect at a slower speed when hooked up directly to the wall thru my modem, without the router in the mix. I tell him this and he say's he'll have to get a field tech to have a look. Finally they get someone out there on the next saturday afternoon. Actually 2 techs show up. They go over everything Ive already done and then run a few more tests. He gets on the phone with some special people from Grande and they try to figure it out. None of them can figure out why I suddenly cannot connect to my DSL service through a router. Finally he tells me the problem isnt on my side, its on the Grande equipment side of things. They recently took over internet service in my area from another smaller company and now the equipment and information transfer between the 2 companies has made things messy. He then goes on to tell me, the network bridge in my section of the city is flakey and it could be 8 to 10 weeks before its replaced!! Then, he says something to me that was Grande's nail in its coffin as far as im concerened. He turns to me and says "well, do you really need to use a router?" I clench my jaw and fists trying to remain calm... I look around my at the 3 other computers that share my internet connection and then back at him and reply "yes, I really do need to use my router". He then says "well, I'll have to talk to some people and I'll call you back on Monday with more information". Monday has come and gone, no call from Grande, still no connection through my router. I am now shopping for a new ISP. Goodbye Grande. You failed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Gulf Gettaway

This past weekend Emily and I hoped on a Southwest Airlines plane and visited our good friends Mike and Cheryl in Galveston Texas. I always like going down there. The ocean, palm tree's and warm weather are an easy tropical gettaway from the rather dry, scenic-less area I live in. Not only was this just a normal visit, we were also there for a mission. Two missions to be exact. We were up early saturday morning and in the car, headed back up to Houston where Cheryl and Emily were going skydiving!

We arrived at our scheduled time of 9:30am so they could check in and go watch the instructional video and meet their sky-diving instructor. Turns out, the place was so far behind with other reservations, they didn't even get on a plane until 3:30pm. That left us with hours of watching the same plane take off over and over and watching wave after wave of jumpers land in the designated landing field. Lucky for us, the weather was great all weekend. With temps in the upper 70's and cloudless skies, it was kind of nice to just hang out in the shade and watch the action. I took the opportunity to bring along my Digital Rebel and take some action shots of all the sky-divers as the landed. Finally it was Cheryl and Emily's turn. They suited up, boarded the plane with their instructors and took off! The plane climbed for about 15-20 minutes until it was no longer visible from the ground, which is about 14,000 ft. I just laid on the ground scanning the sky for any signs of falling people. Suddenly, parachutes begin to open far in the distance. Slowly, people from their flight begin to reach the ground. I notice thought its all solo jumpers. The tandum jumpers went last. Finally I can see Cheryl and Emily, attached to their instructors, drifting back down to earth. First Cheryl lands, then Emily. Both skidding gently across the grass for fairly soft landings. They did it! Mission one, complete! See this link for pictures from the day! ---> SKYDIVE HOUSTON

The second mission of the weekend was planned out long ago by Emily. Her entry form had been picked to allow her to try out for the game show Jeopardy! For weeks leading up to this trip, I had helped her study questionaire books, state capitals, presidents and information on foreign countries. Now it was time to take their test. The first level she had to get through was a quick fire round of questions. Ten questions with 10 seconds to answer each question. No multiple choice, you had to write it out. So either you know it or you don't! From what she told me, she was immediatly asked a couple questions over topics we had studied, so she easily got them correct. When that phase was done, and scores were graded, she didn't make the cut unfortunatly. The few that did, were taken to another room where they would compete in a mock Jeopardy show. This was to see how they did under pressure and on camera. That would have been interesting to see.

Later that afternoon Mike and Cheryl took us back to the airport for our flight home. The flight to and from Dallas and Houston has to be one of the shortest ive EVER been on. The plane takes off, reaches altitude and then begins the decent to the next airport. The flight is barely an hour. It was a great trip and I really needed the get away. Thanks to Mike and Cheryl for having us down. It was a lot of fun! I look forward to a summer trip so we can hit the beaches and swim in the hot south Texas weather!