Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sounds reasonable to me

"It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress." Mark Twain 

THANKS TO Karma Cahill for passing this on. You can decide whether or not to share it with others. I'm personally tired of members of Congress who manage to turn being elected to national office into a lifetime of privilege and wealth. Here's a big change to consider.

"The 26th amendment, granting the right to vote to 18 year-olds, took only three months and eight days to be ratified because the people demanded it, and that was in 1971 — before computers, e-mail and cell phones. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven took a year or less to become the law due to intense public pressure. Here's an idea to consider." 

Congressional Reform Act of 2011 

1. Term limits will be 12 years. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.  The limits are as follows:

A.  Two six-year terms for Senators
B.  Six two-year terms for Representatives
C.  Three two-year terms in the House and one six-year in the Senate if elected to both bodies.

2. No tenure and no pension. A Congressman shall collect a salary while in office and receive no pay when he or she is out of office.

3. Congresspeople, past, present and future, shall participate in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately, all future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates in the same way the American people do.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan like the rest of us do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the consumer price index (CPI), the same as social security.

6. Congresspeople lose their current health care system and participate in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congresspeople are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with our legislators. Congress made all these contracts for themselves.

I'm not sure who came up with this, but I'm for it.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lena Taylor, Roxanne and Rotary

"Curls weren't a good look for her. She didn't have your bone structure." — Reece Witherspoon as Elle Woods in the movie Legally Blonde

I GUESS YOU'RE glad I don't go many places since all I've written about for more than a week is the Gymnastic Championships. I know, I know, but I still can't resist telling you one more thing about it.

When I went to Rotary last Thursday, I happened to sit next to Scott Reister who's a sports reporter on KCCI TVWe get the headlines delivered to us at Rotary every Thursday by someone from KCCI, which is why he was there, but since I don't watch sports news, I didn't know who he was.

Scott overheard me mentioning to another person at our table that Paul and I had spent the weekend in St. Paul attending the National Gymnastics Championships. He said to me, "Oh here's an interesting thing XXX told me." (A really credible source so you'd think, but I won't mention the name.) "If Rebecca Bross hadn't been injured, Gabrielle Douglas wouldn't have made the national team because Gabrielle got Rebecca's spot." "That's odd," I said because I was there and unless I was hallucinating, Rebecca WAS selected. They both made it." 

Just to make sure I hadn't experienced a blackout while sitting 30 feet away from the women's team, I grabbed my i-Phone and checked the roster on the USA National Gymnastics website. Guess who was right? As Reese Witherspoon says, or rather yells in Legally Blonde — "ME!" (one of our all-time favorite movies) I actually scooped a TV news guy who follows sports for a living. Yay, amateurs!

School is back in session which means Paul is back teaching one afternoon a week at Drake. One of his friends, drummer and vibe player John Kizilarmut, teaches an improvisation class twice a week. According to one of Paul's students, John's class is really hard! So much so that now Paul wants to sit in on it. John said he's welcome to. I hope Paul does it. We need to figure out the fastest, cheapest means to get him a doctoral degree because he's never happier than when he's playing, teaching or talking about music. He ought to be teaching full time at some university.

Paul is off listening to a new band in town from Nashville. They're looking for a horn section and called him, so he's there checking them out to see if he wants to be in it. I went to a fund raiser for the Polk County Democrats at Roxanne Conlin's house. It's the annual women's event, and this year the special guest was State Senator Lena Taylor from Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Senator, Lena Taylor

First elected to political office in 2003 in the Wisconsin Assembly, Lena won a special election for a seat in the State Assembly and soon after was elected to the State Senate. She is the thousandth senator in the state of Wisconsin, twentieth woman, fifth African-American and only the second African-American woman to serve in the state senate.

Recently, she took a stand against Governor Walker as part of the "Fab 14" — the fourteen Democratic Senators who left the state to try to prevent the passing of the bill stripping away the right of workers and democracy in the work place. 

Lena had a great story to tell about going to college. She did NOT want to go, but her mother thought differently. And so — her mom picked out the college, filled out the application forms, signed them, sent them in, picked out her major (electrical engineering) and her classes, dormitory, room, roommate, furniture and clothes and hauled her off to college. 

Eventually, Lena said, she figured out that she was going to college whether she wanted to or not, switched her major to English, graduated, went on to law school, graduated, became a public defender before starting her own practice and getting elected to the Wisconsin State Senate

Roxanne has a truly incredible life story herself. I'll tell that as best I can sometime with her permission. Roxanne is without a doubt the most A-M-A-Z-I-N-G person I've ever known. 

Roxanne The Magnificent, kitten-rescuer and personal hero.
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Shawn's results

"Gymnastics taught me everything - life lessons, responsibility and discipline and respect." — Shawn Johnson 

SOME OF YOU, especially those from central Iowa, may be wondering how our local girl, Shawn Johnson, came out at Nationals. She was GREAT. She wasn't in contention in the all-around because she elected not to perform on floor exercise. She's still getting back up to full speed after an injury she sustained skiing, and neither Shawn nor Chow wanted her to push it. Both of them seemed very pleased with her showing, and she's the crowd favorite for sure.

Paul noticed an interesting difference between Shawn and the other competitors on the women's side. While athletes were waiting their turn on the apparatus, most seemed to be milling around — sitting, standing, pacing, maybe stretching. Not Shawn. She was running up and down the sidelines, doing handstand pushups (yikes) or practicing little segments of her routines. 

Since she was hardly taller than the pipe and drape that separated the competitive area from the sidelines, the only way you could tell she was present on our side of the floor was by watching her ponytail bouncing in the air as she jogged up and down the length of the arena.

The hometown favorite.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Women's 2011 USA gymnastics finals

"Never give up and always keep fighting, because though times may be tough, the sacrifices do pay off, so just keep pushing towards your dream and just love it at the same time enjoy it." — Gabrielle Douglas

SATURDAY, August 20, we attended the rhythmic gymnastics finals. You might have seen a rhythmic performance televised from the Olympics. That's about the only time you ever see or hear of it. Rhythmic uses four kinds of apparatus — a ball, a hoop, two juggling clubs and a long, long, long ribbon attached to a wand. The routines are all set to music, are very balletic, require enormous flexibility and are only for women. It feels very Greco/Roman to me; I can imagine it as entertainment for the emperor and his court.

Russian gold-medal-winning rhythmic gymnast, Yevgeniya Kanayeva, at the 2008 Olympics.

It was disappointing to see how few people were in attendance for the finals. They weren't held in the same arena as artistic gymnastics, but in half of an old, moldy gymnasium. As Rodney Dangerfield might say, this sport "don't get no respect." Besides individual routines, we also got to see the national team perform the senior group routine, and it was delightfully entertaining.

When we first sat down, we were next to a woman who appeared to be connected to the team or one of the senior performers in some way. I spoke complementarily to her about the team and suggested that after the Olympics the group should try out for America's Got Talent. Preceded by a big exhalation — you know the kind that translates as "you are SO stupid" — she said, "Uh, yah, uh huh, thanks" as she rolled her overly-made-up eyes at me. I should have known better. I think she was from Chicago, but she totally looked like one of those Housewives of (fill in the blank). She never stopped chewing gum for a second or looking at her phone through the entire competition. We unobtrusively relocated after getting up to get a drink.

Later I spotted a woman in an official coaching outfit entering scores into a laptop. On a break, I made my suggestion to her, prefaced by (based on my previous experience) "Okay, this might sound stupid but . . ." She told me that indeed it was not a dumb idea. The Australian rhythmic team entered Australia's Got Talent and did really well. They certainly need to do something to raise the sport's visibility so that more than 100 people show up to see a National Championship.

Compare that to the roughly 10,000 attendance for the women's artistic final held the same night. It's the big-draw, high-dollar event. Olympic veterans Shawn Johnson, Alicia Sacramone and Chellsie Memmel were there as well as new stars Rebecca Bross, Alexandra Raisman and Jordyn Wieber. Naturally Marta and Bela Karolyi were there too, and we spotted Olympian Bridget Sloan who's recovering from an injury. 

We got to watch Chow coach Shawn Johnson and Gabrielle Douglas as well as Nastia's dad Valeri Liukin who was coaching some of the athletes including Rebecca Bross. Valeri won a a team gold medal for the Soviet Union, a gold on high bar and silvers on parallel and all-around at the 1988 Olympics before moving to the US.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Marta Karolyi will be stepping down as coordinator of the US women's team after the 2012 Olympics in London, and her vote for taking over her position is Valeri who coached Nastia to four gold and five silver World Championship medals between 2005 and 2007, and one gold, three silver and one bronze Olympic medals in 2008.

Nastia Liukin and her father and coach, Valeri Liukin.

Chow's demeanor was interesting to observe. He keeps this utterly calm, half smile on his face at all times. It must be quite reassuring to his athletes that he stays perpetually, calmly positive. Valeri also remains extraordinarily calm even in dangerous situations like when tiny Rebecca Bross broke her kneecap Saturday night performing her vault. She was in a great deal of pain and had to have emergency treatment on the floor before being carried off. We all collectively held our breath. 

Chellsie Memmel performing on the balance beam. 
Wow, I didn't know that was even physically possible!

Chellsie Memmel is a particular favorite of ours, and like Jonathan Horton on the men's side she did so well on every event until the very last one —uneven bars — where she fell off twice. She looked devastated. But she's nothing if not a fighter, and she'll be back. Fortunately, and deservedly, she made the National team; we'll be watching and waiting to see if she makes the Olympic team.

Can't resist including another picture of Chellsie.

Below is the a list of the just-selected Senior National Team. You'll notice two young women have the last name of Caquatto. We kept wondering why this Caquatto girl was doing way more routines than everyone else until we figured out that there were actually two of them, sisters Mackenzie and Bridgette.

Current Residence
WOGA Gymnastics
Plano, TX
Legacy Elite Gymnastics LLC
Naperville, IL
Legacy Elite Gymnastics LLC
Naperville, IL
Chow's Gymnastics and Dance Institute
Virginia Beach, VA
Chow's Gymnastics and Dance Institute
West Des Moines, IA
All Olympia AOGC
Laguna Niguel, CA
M and M Gymnastics
West Allis, WI
Brestyan's American Gymnastics
Needham, MA
Brestyan's American Gymnastics
Winchester, MA
Dynamic Gymnastics
Carmel, NY
Gedderts Twistars USA
DeWitt, MI

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day two of the men's competition

"Danell has always been coming from the bottom to the top, He’s done it many, many times in his career since he was a little kid." — Yin Alvarez, Danell Leyva's coach and stepfather

FRIDAY NIGHT we were back for the men's finals. Danell Leyva is the new superstar for the men, and he lived up to all the hype. So did his step-father/coach, Yin Alvarez, who is total hoot to watch.

Yin has this ritual he goes through with each of the young men he coaches. He kisses the athlete who's about to perform on the forehead, then touches the young man's ears and moves his hands up away from the ears in an exaggerated, dramatic fashion. It must be some kind of voodoo-superstition thing for warding off evil spirits or conjuring good ones. Yin gets as excited as anyone you've ever seen whether or not they do well, and he punches up the volume of uninhibited happy dancing even more if they really perform well.

Danell Leyva and his coach and step-father, Yin Alvaerez.

Paul and I attended the USA Olympic gymnastics trials in Philadelphia for the last go 'round, and happened to end up sitting next to Jonathan Horton's parents. Of course we've been fans ever since, however, I'm giving myself an atta' girl for being a good judge of talent because before we'd met his folks and before he started to pull away from the other competitors, I picked him out as the one to watch.

All through the trials I referred to him as Young Master Horton so much that now Paul and I sometimes forget his actual first name. He's back again in the hunt for the Olympics, sitting in second place at Nationals after the first day of competition.

That's our boy.

Jonathan was performing so well until high bar, his last routine of the night. It's usually a sure-bet apparatus for him. He does all kinds of difficult, big-air release moves with such seeming ease, but uncharacteristically he missed and fell off the bar. In the end Danell Leyva won with a combined score of 183.800 to 181.050 for Young Master.

As for individual champions:

Jacob Dalton took first place on floor, Jonathan third.
Alexander Naddour was first on the pommel horse, Jonathan was 14th.
Brandon Wynn took first on rings with Jonathan placing third.
Jacob Dalton placed first on vault, Jonathan was third.
Danell Leyva took first on parallel bars with Jonathan fourth.
Danell took first on high bar, but the Young Master still managed to take fifth even after falling off the apparatus altogether.

The US National team was also selected and announced. Listed alphabetically, the members are:
  • Donothan Bailey, Lake Forest, Calif./University of California - Berkeley

  • Chris Brooks, Houston/Team Hilton HHonors (Cypress Academy)

  • Alex Buscaglia, Stanford, Calif./Stanford University

  • Jake Dalton, Reno, Nev./University of Oklahoma
  • Jonathan Horton, Houston/Team Hilton HHonors (Cypress Academy)
  • Glen Ishino, Santa Ana, Calif./University of California – Berkeley

  • Steven Legendre, Port Jefferson, N.Y./Team Hilton Honors (University of Oklahoma)
  • Danell Leyva, Homestead, Fla./Team Hilton HHonors (Universal Gymnastics)
C.J. Maestas, Corrales, N.M./University of Illinois

  • Sam Mikulak, Ann Arbor, Mich./University of Michigan
  • Alexander Naddour, Gilbert, Ariz./University of Oklahoma
  • Sho Nakamori, Albany, Calif./Stanford University
  • John Orozco, Bronx, N.Y., U.S. Olympic Training Center
  • Paul Ruggeri, Manlius, N.Y/University of Illinois

  • Brandon Wynn, Voorhees, N.J./Team Hilton HHonors (Ohio State University) 
Click here to read a really entertaining Minneapolis Star Tribune article about Danell LeyvaYin and of course Young Master Horton. Paul and I felt very proud of Jonathan's sportsmanship and graciousness that's evident in his interview. BTW, 2004 All-Around Gold Medal Olympian Paul Hamm was also there on the floor helping out. It was fun to see him too.

2004 All-Around Olympic gold medalist, Paul Hamm.
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More on the National Championships

"I know the impact that Mary Lou Retton had on me, and it was life-changing. You never know which child you are going to reach by just showing up and saying hello." — Kerri Strug

THE FIRST NIGHT of the senior women's championship we sat across the arena from a long table of gymnastic royalty: Marta and Bela Karolyi, Nastia Liukin, Nadia Comaneci and her husband Bart Conner. For me it was about as exciting to see Bela and Marta as it was to watch the athletes perform.

Béla and Márta Károlyi have trained nine Olympic champions, fifteen world champions, sixteen European medalists including Nadia Comăneci and many US national champions such as Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug, Kim ZmeskalDominique Moceanu and Dominique Dawes.

Bela was team coordinator and personal coach for four of the USA women's team, since known as the Magnificent Seven, at the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta. Who can forget when Kerri Strug, despite having a badly injured ankle, landed a spectacular vault on one foot — in the process clinching the team gold medal for the United States  and afterwards Bela carrying her around the arena in his arms and holding her on the podium so she could be with the rest of the team.

Bela carrying brave Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics

Marta has been the National Team Coordinator for the US women's gymnastics team since 2001. As such she oversees all aspects of the women's national team including selecting athletes for competitions, determining apparatus lineups at the meets, and making recommendations about skills and routine compositions. During her tenure American women have won a combined total of forty-four World Championship and Olympic medals.

Marta and Alicia Sacramoneat a previous competition.

It was great fun to watch Bela and Marta's reactions to individual routines. After Shawn did her vault Thursday night, Bella gave a big thumbs up to her coach, Chow. The Olympic trials will be held in San Jose, CA in June, 2012. Maybe we'll get to go.

Click here to read an interview with Marta Karolyi that took place after the 2011 World Championships, written by Brian Cazeneuve for Sports Illustrated. Marta will be stepping down as coordinator of the US women's team after the 2012 Olympics in London. Her vote for taking over her position is Nastia Liukin's father Valeri, who coached Nastia to winning four gold and five silver World Championship medals between 2005 and 2007 and one gold, three silver and one bronze Olympic medals in 2008. 

Friday we slept in, then went for a walk/run in a large park directly across the street from our hotel, then back to the hotel for a swim in the indoor pool. I felt more relaxed than I have for a long, long time.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

2011 National Gymnastics Championships

"I started taking gymnastic classes when I was 3 years old." — Shawn Johnson 

HEY LOOK apologizes for the long hiatus, the result of technical and temperamental difficulties. The former would be lack of internet connectivity, 5% of the problem; the later would be me, 95% of the problem.

I'm happy to report that I'm once again Shiny — happy to be in a better mood and very happy to be in St. Paul, Minnesota attending the National Gymnastics Championships.

Tonight was the start of the senior women's competition in artistic gymnastics. It's the form most people mean — balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercise and vault for women and parallel bars, high bar, floor, pommel horse, vault and rings for men — when they say "gymnastics." 

However, there's also rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acro and group gymnastics. The men's and women's artistic and the rhythmic championships run through Saturday night here in St. Paul.

Among the competitors we saw this evening were 2008 Olympic veterans Shawn Johnson, Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone. Below is the video of Shawn's uneven bar routine from tonight.

Sixteen-year-old Jordyn Wieber is currently in first place in the all-around competition and first place on vault and floor ex. In second place is Alexandra Raisman, who trains with Alicia Sacramone in Burlington, Massachusetts, and Chellsie Memmel is in third. She got the highest balance beam score of the night.

More tomorrow!
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ha ha

What do call a drummer without a girlfriend? Homeless. “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” — Charlie Chaplin

HEY LOOK has been in a serious funk for the last week, dwelling on perceived inadequacies as well as abundant actual ones. Here are a few jokes to cheer up those who need of it — including Something Shiny.

What's the best way to make a trombone player's car more aerodynamic?
Take the pizza delivery sign off the top of it.

What's the best way to get a guitar player to stop playing?
Put music in front of him.

Why have scientists started using sax players instead of mice for experiments?
They reproduce faster, and you don't get as attached to them.

What are the most difficult three years in a bass player's life?
Second grade.

What's the difference between government bonds and a guitar player.
Government bonds eventually mature and start earning money.

What do call a clarinet player without a girlfriend? 

Speaking of hilarious riffs about musicians, have you ever listened to Pat Metheny's take on Kenny G? Priceless.

Amy's Latest Check-up

My friend Amy, who recently turned 50, thought she probably should go in for a physical since it had been quite awhile since her last one. Happily, she came through with flying colors.

When she got home she was changing into some around-the-house clothes, and her husband Jim happened to walk past while she was in the process. He couldn't help but notice that Amy was checking herself out in the full length mirror, and asked her what was up.

Amy told him that she was in an extra good mood because she'd gotten such a good report from the doctor. "In fact," Amy said, "Dr. Roth said I have the breasts of a 25-year-old." Jim shot back and not very gallantly, in my opinion, "Oh, really? What'd he say about your 50-year-old ass?" 

Amy reassured him, "Oh honey, we didn't talk about you at all."
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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wild, wacky — even quacky shoes

"Women need food, water, and compliments. And an occasional pair of shoes." Chris Rock, comedian 

THANKS TO Karma Cahill for hipping me to these hip shoes.

All designed by Kobi Levi. Arf, arf.

Another doggie pair.

Laundry basket shoes.

Wheeled luggage.

Asked for shoes in 'nude', Kobi was just a little to literal.

Modern chairs for little tiny people.

Not the slings we're used to wearing. Cool, shoes and a weapon!

Reminds me of Mick Jaggers' tongue album.

Kobi understand the shoe business backwards and forward.

No one could tell if you were coming or going in these boots.

My best guess is golf theme shoes?

Swan shoes. The only ones I'd even remotely consider.

Toucan shoes or a similar jungle bird.

Mallard shoes!

I'm thinking these are Little Orphan Annie shoes. 

Madonna or Britney Spears concert diva shoes.

Banana shoes.

When someone said she wanted "slides" Kobi took her literally.

It took awhile, but I finally got this one; stepping in bubble gum.

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