A Heartwarming Story of Lower League Soccer Support

In Little Rock, AR there is an NPSL team who are in their third season. Of course, at this level the players play for free and funding is comparatively pretty sparse. Awareness of the team and league can be even sparser. I myself am really in only my second year of being a soccer fan. I came into it via the 2014 World Cup, tried to latch on to an EPL team, never really did for a couple years, then was prompted to try MLS. When I learned my hometown (Dallas) had a team, I said I’d give it a shot. Watched a couple games on TV, knew I had to go to a match, stood and got crazy with El Matador, and was instantly in love. But I digress… As this all developed, I just never (regrettably) got around to going to the Little Rock Rangers game here until their last game of the season a couple weeks ago at the invitation of a friend on Reddit, who was coming to write about the teams.

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You’ll note I said “regrettably”. I had such a fantastic experience at that game. Of course, we gravitated over to the boisterous supporters, who call themselves The Red Watch. Chanting, banging drums, popping smoke bombs, throwing streamers… they do it all. And passionately. At the end of the game, when the ref blew his whistle to send the team to playoffs, (with permission) we stormed the field. What a time!

I knew I’d be going to the playoff game. So I followed The Red Watch on twitter looking for tailgate info. The leader replied to me they were still scrambling to try to put things together in time, so I asked what I could do to help.

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Their signature red smoke bombs delivery was not going to make it in time for the game, so he asked me if I knew where to get any locally. So I hit the internet and the phone. For over an hour, I was in complete chaos. The search led me on a rabbit chase of a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy. Finally we found a shop about an hour away and got the goods. I was so excited to have come through for them! That night, the team’s first ever playoff game and playoff victory took place.

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Their next match was in Kansas and ~7-8 of The Red Watch traveled to the game, the team picking up the tab for the van rental and gas. The Rangers won on penalty kicks. The next round was in Laredo, TX on Wednesday night and a pub offered their back room for a watch party. IMG_0824So many people were crammed in; I couldn’t believe the turn out. And yes, victory again in extra time. We knocked off the #1 NPSL team in the nation who had not lost a match all season. (And this win guaranteed a US Open Cup spot.) Wow!

But now enter a dilemma. With little funding and the huge expense of traveling to Miami for the south regional final immediately required, the team simply didn’t have the money. The supporters recommended to the owner to try GoFundMe but he was reluctant. However, he posted it on their way back from Laredo. IMG_0842We met the team when they arrived home last night. The players were so appreciative; their faces as they pulled in were priceless. The team captain gave a little speech, many photos were taken, then they were off to home and much needed sleep. And the experience shows how much more than a game it is to people who love this sport. And that sentiment is amplified by the fact that in a little over 24 hours, the travel fund met its $20,000 goal!

In a few short weeks, I have got to witness and participate in all this as a brand new supporter. It has brought joy to me in a time in my life when I have been searching for something to look forward to, and I’ve made new friends that will go beyond the season and the game, and there’s nothing like taking in some local pride! These leagues need our grassroots support. So as those of us cheer on our MLS teams, let’s not forget where some (or many?) of the players come from. If we develop and support our local clubs in these leagues, our pro teams and our favorite sport will only be benefited. I end with this quote from another fan of the Little Rock Rangers:

“Soccer people are different than other sports fans. They’re more hard-core about the sport itself. It’s been much maligned and been called communist. American football fans put it down. When you have this animosity from the outside, soccer fans really tend to support their own.”

Preach, brother.

(Red smoke photo credit to Mike Ortega.)

A Heartwarming Story of Lower League Soccer Support

A Precious Prayer Request

I could really use some prayer support and encouragement right now. I have an 8 year old cat Naomi who is pretty much everything that makes me happy. She got really sick last week and it looked like an infection and kidney problem. This afternoon, her blood levels didn’t change so the vet did an ultrasound. It indicated an enlarged kidney. He did a radiograph. She’s got a stone in her right kidney and the kidney itself is really small, possibly non-functional. The left kidney is huge, probably making up for it. He took a urine culture. It will take 3-4 days to get it back. He is trying to see what specific antibiotic is needed. If and once he can fix the infection, then he can determine if the kidneys will return to normal or… basically if it is over. She is currently eating and drinking and using the litter. Pretty low on energy but still exhibiting a few signs of her personality. Best case is sounding like she would have fluid treatment the rest of her life.

I’m pretty much in just full meltdown mode. If I’m just waiting for the end, I don’t know how to get through it. And I have to focus on some important work things coming up this week, which may include having to be away Thursday night/Friday. And I’m simply going to be beside myself the whole time.

So basically I’m a wreck. I don’t even know how to pet her or hold her or hear her purr without being overcome but the deepest grief. I’ve got to figure out how to deal with the enormous expenses. And after everything I’ve been through I’m just crying out to Jesus for strength. To call on the grace and faith He has given me and not run away from it again in the face of more hardship. But most of all for healing for my baby girl.

I’m sorry if you aren’t a pet person and this all seems weird to you. But thank you all the same for lifting Naomi and I up in prayer.

A Precious Prayer Request

A History of Amazon  Orders

Inspired by a tech writer a follow on Twitter, I thought it would be interesting to look back at my Amazon history. I got started way back in 1999, when there were still dead tree books and little silver discs that held music files. Nowadays, my online shopping has shifted to “everyday” items. As technology has changed, so have my habits. I think there is revelation to be found in looking back at something like this. How my life has changed, reflected by what I found valuable to me (in my purchases). And also how my life has been changed by products and services and technology. This is probably interesting to no one but me, but hey, it’s a fun exercise.

1999 – 2 orders: book and CD

  • I’ve long since sold all my Star Wars books on resale sites and the CD is a soundtrack I have ripped and still have in a playlist.

2000 – 3 orders: movies

  • Two of the orders were gifts. I still have the third but have literally never watched it. It is the CNN recap of the worldwide celebrations of 2000 New Years Day.

2001 – 4 orders: books and movie

  • Again, the Star Wars books are resold. The movie is still on my shelf.

2002 – 2 orders: book and board game

  • It’s a party game, not one I have any more.

2003 – 2 orders: book and board game

  • I have absolutely no recollection of buying the board game, Axis and Allies. I’ve never played that game. Maybe it was a gift?

2004 – 2 orders: CDs and how-to book

  • The music is digitized in my library still to this day.
  • I don’t remember ever trying to use Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing. I’ve always used Final Cut. Weird.

2005 – 1 order: book

2006 – No orders. Huh…

2007 – 2 orders: TV and movies

  • I had this TV right up until last October. Crazy, I knew it was an older TV but not that it was 10 years. I donated it; not sure where it ended up.
  • Looks like this is also when I decided to go blu-ray. You’ll remember there was a format battle between blu-ray and HD-DVD. I placed my bets on blu-ray and that’s what ended up winning out!

2008 – 6 orders: movies, books, gifts

  • I still have 2 of 4 movies. Well, one was a TV series box set that I don’t have anymore. With Netflix, what’s the point of owning TV shows?
  • One gift was an under-counter CD player my mom asked for Christmas. I actually think I saw that sitting in the living room this Christmas. Not sure if it is still used, but it is out where it can be!

2009 – 10 orders: books, gadgets, gifts

  • This is the year I read the enormous Wheel of Time series.
  • Looks like I also upgraded my dash radio in my old truck that year.

2010 – 6 orders: clothes, Kindle, video game

  • Ahhh, so here’s where I switched to e-books. Oh my, I opted to try the giant 10″ Kindle DX. I remember being really hung up on not wanting to turn the page so often on the smaller screen. But the big Kindle was just too much and I sold it to a guy internationally.
  • Team logo apparel for Texas Longhorns and Dallas Stars. Still have those in my closet, although the Stars have since rebranded.

2011 – 30 orders: board games, video games, movies, gadgets, bike accessories

  • Bought the PS3 this year and several games. The PS3 has found a great home at a friend’s.
  • Looks like I bought the Macbook Air that year because there are a few accessories and cables for it. Also a couple iPhone accessories for the car.
  • I settled on the smaller Kindle early in the year, passed that on to a family member, and upgraded to the first touch screen Kindle. The case I got, I still use.
  • Apparently I tried to be more mindful of exercise this year. I got a bicycle and some basic home gym accessories. I ended up liking to ride on pavement more than trails so I sold my bike with the intention of switching to a road bike, but never did. And I definitely never worked out at home. Haha.

2012 – 37 orders: kitchen gear, movies, gadgets, board games

  • I’m starting to get really fascinated by looking back at all this. This is the year I got into cooking. There are all sorts of orders, from chef knives to stand mixer.
  • At this point I’m upgrading my DVDs to blu-rays more consistently, despite saying I wouldn’t do that.
  • The board games I bought are now the ones I play with my group of friends. It would be the start of a multi-year streak of playing on a weekly basis. Some good memories there. Hate that life took its turn and we play much less frequently now. Bummer.

2013 – 23 orders: movies, travel gear, board games, gadgets

  • Quite a big order of one particular board game, Star Wars X-Wing. I ended up hating it and sold it all for probably half what I paid for it. Ugh.
  • The travel gear was purchased in preparation for my first baseball stadium tour vacation. I’ve been on two of those. Hope to get another one in this year! Thinking of heading due north.

2014 – 31 orders: movies, video games, gadgets, kitchenware, board games

  • The year of the PS4. I remember having to purchase a headset a few times because Naomi loves to chew on thin wires. Not only my PS4 headset but my iPhone ones too.
  • I started changing out my plates and bowls to Fiestaware. Very fun and colorful. Still use these today.
  • Among the gadgets I bought, there is small bluetooth speaker I still use in the bathroom when getting ready.

2015 – 37 orders: gadgets, movies, hypoallergenic products, board games, kitchen gear

  • I upgraded my car’s dash system with an Apple CarPlay touchscreen and a backup camera.
  • I tried out a new Kindle called the Voyage but it was plagued by a pesky two-toned screen issue. Unresolved, I ended up returning it.
  • This year I got super snobby about coffee and started doing the pour-over method with Chemex. I’ve done that since then until just recently.
  • I started allergy treatments this year when I finally went to an allergist to see why I was having such trouble, particularly at night. Turns out I developed allergies to cats. Despite most people telling me to get rid of Naomi (which would really piss me off), I pursued treatment. Got hypoallergenic bedding and a HEPA filter to help. Treatments are going well, by the way!
  • I also started getting into smart home products this year. Started out with a video doorbell that I can answer from anywhere. I’ve upgraded since the original.

2016 – 36 orders: gadgets, movies, household items

  • Added several other smart home devices like thermostat, lights, door locks, and (most recently) garage door opener. Really fun stuff when I can just say “Hey Siri, I’m home” and my whole house adjusts the way I’ve set it.
  • Amazon came out with Dash Buttons for household products, like detergent, paper products, etc. I wanted to try them out. You stick them somewhere, set it up to the item you want, and when you need it, you just push the button. Two days later, it arrives. I’ll never have to shop at a store like an animal again!

2017 – 40 orders: movies, gadgets, board games, household items

  • Despite it being a pretty bad year for me personally, once things started turning around, I celebrated by making it the year of the upgrade! New TV 4k HDR TV and audio receiver. PS4 Pro. Some upgrades to the home network.
  • Got me a really nice coffee pot by Oxo that is highly rated as replicating the pour-over method excellently. Been doing that to this day. Sure is nice to wake up with it ready!

Summing it all up, it started out for me as a book- and music- store, but books and music have become downloadable content. I still hang on to physical media for movies because I find them superior to streaming them, but the end is nigh for blu-rays too. I bought into a lot of technology (and a little ashamed at how much I’ve spent, but let’s be real, am I going to change?). As Amazon made it easier to order routine items that would previously require going to the store, I’ve largely started having them delivered to me. Lots of retail, grocery, and restaurants are trying to stay viable by doing the same now. I once heard that the invention of the garage door opener led to greater isolation among neighbors, because you no longer had to get out and chance greeting people next door. I wonder if we’re going to isolate ourselves even further by having everything we want and need come to us. It’s a cautious thing, but as our society just continues to increase pace and busyness, and is more connected than ever, I doubt the issues will outweigh the convenience.

A History of Amazon  Orders

Net Neutrality

Yesterday, the FCC rolled back some regulations that protected an open, free internet. So called “net neutrality” rules. On the outset, less government seems like a good thing, especially in the state of things these days. But sometimes we as consumers do need to be protected by some rules. The commissioner’s propaganda he’s selling that less regulation will mean more innovation is simply a farce. (Sorta like the idea of trickle down economics. Cutting corporate taxes will put more money in the pockets of the middle class because of how much companies will save? Yeah right!) Here are the three things that are going to happen now.

1. We’re going to start paying for access bundles. Take a look at this REAL service plan from an internet service provider in Portugal after their government got rid of net neutrality rules.

2. ISPs will have the ability to block content that competes with them. Here’s a hypothetical. Let’s say Comcast NBC-Universal as the big conglomerate decides to start their own streaming service (a la Netflix). They will now be able to slow down your access to, say, Disney’s streaming service. Or, more likely, block it unless you pay extra. They can also force Disney to pay a toll to access a fast lane of distribution, which they’ll do because no one will subscribe to them if the quality of their streaming is terrible.

3. Small businesses will be unable to compete. Think about it. Why haven’t the likes of Facebook or Google come along as a loud voice of advocacy for the consumer, lobbying to protect net neutrality rules? Because they can afford to pay for the fast lane! And they want to be the primary place you go. Go back to the scenario. Let’s say some innovative entrepreneurs want to start up a new streaming service. But they don’t have anywhere close to the billions–with a b–of capital in their coffers. They can’t afford to pay for a fast lane, so their content is throttled. People who check their service out get low quality content. They don’t bother subscribing and they don’t want to pay the ISP another $5 bundle. And the business is dead before it can even begin.

This is is our reality now. The telcom lobby is strong. The FCC refused to look into fraudulent comments made that supported the rollback of these regulations. They ignored the will of the people in our democracy, fooled others with the story that “deregulation is better”, and filled their campaign accounts with sweet telcom contributions. The commissioner has stated that if we don’t like what our ISP does, we can simply choose another. This is incredibly stupid, as so much of America only has one choice for an ISP. Two at best. It’s virtually an unregulated monopoly (and in my opinion, internet service deserves to be looked at as a utility. Electricity, gas, water, internet).

We can only hope the lawsuits are numerous and this ruling is tied up in litigation for a long time until someone can actually represent us and undo this tragedy.

Net Neutrality

Our Representatives Are Not Representing Us

Forget the environment. Forget our privacy. It’s all meaningless. What a week. I’m not party line supporter–and not interested in being described as conservative or liberal–and it is a very rare thing indeed for me to even broach politics, but this has been a very bad week. I can’t stand the level of irresponsibility I’ve seen in these past few months, I don’t care who what party it comes from. When legislation is repealed that would protect against climate change, albeit in a small but measurable way, and a climatologist is attacked–yes, attacked–by our legislators when he meets with them in committee, I have a hard time saying our representatives represent us. 90% of the scientific community, I’ve read, agree that humans are irreversibly altering our climate, but our GOP politicians refuse to believe it. Coal and oil pockets run very deep.

Then there’s the issue of congress selling out our online privacy. Earlier this week, both the Senate and House–strictly on party lines–votes to allow internet service providers (so that’s your AT&T, Comcast, etc) to collect and sell our personally identifiable information from their networks to companies who want it WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION. The sponsor of the bill lied about how it was unfair competitive advantage for companies like Facebook and Google to have and sell that data and ISPs can’t, but that’s apples and oranges. Those are about specific ad networks that are connected to those services. Which is why when you visit, say, walmart.com and browse for a cleaning product, you may see that very same product as an ad on Facebook. ISPs get EVERYTHING. And they have your personal information, such as contact info and maybe even your SSN. And instead of offering an opt out, now they can sell it all off unbeknownst to all of us.

Why is this an issue? Let’s play out a scenario. Let’s say the same said congress was successful in repealing the ACA and pre-existing conditions became a thing again. I just had a horrible illness. I’m also now paying for my own health insurance (at enormous expense). So Big Health Insurance Company A buys the data from my ISP, Comcast, and can see I’ve been researching “viral meningitis” for 3-4 weeks. Now they have information that can be used against me to deny me coverage.

That’s just a what-if. How many countless real situations will there be? Employers looking into potential hires. Some other kind of car, health, or life insurance able to see the kinds of things you look at and run their algorithims to say you are more likely to do this or that, and use it to raise your rates. The invasion of your PERSONAL, IDENTIFIABLE habits, locations, purchases.

I wrote all three of my representaties in the House and Senate, urging them to not vote for this. To not blindly follow their party into this terrible act.

Rep. French Hill has not replied, but he supported it. (Only two GOP representatives opposed it.)

Here is Sen. Tom Cotton’s reply (or his staffer/intern):

As you know, in December 2016, the FCC released a new set of rules which claimed to provide increased privacy protection, choice, and transparency in how internet service providers (ISPs) use consumers’ personal data. The rules provide broadband consumers an option to “opt out” if they no longer want ISPs to share their personal information with businesses for advertising purposes. Earlier this Congress, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced a congressional resolution of disapproval of the FCC’s data privacy rules. I proudly supported this measure as it would nullify the flawed rules which allow the FCC to regulate ISPs, while keeping the most important consumer privacy protections in place. I share your concern for strengthening our laws to ensure American citizens’ privacy is protected. As technology evolves, it’s imperative that our laws are updated to protect constitutional rights and reflect the modes of communication most commonly used. 

So get rid of the rule that enforced opt-out but that’s somehow ensuring our privacy is protected. What? If his claims are true then the vote would not have been strictly by party line. What Sen. Cotton doesn’t mention is the $70,025 he received from telecom. That’s nearly twice the median household income in Arkansas.

Here is Sen. John Boozman’s (staffer’s) reply:

I believe in protecting an open, free and vibrant Internet. Congress has a duty to see that our laws are fair, not only to the companies involved, but also to citizens across the nation that use technology every day. I believe the FCC should focus on removing barriers to competition and allowing the private sector to more effectively allocate our broadband resources. While we may not see eye-to-eye on this issue, please know I appreciate your feedback, and will keep your thoughts in mind should S.J.Res. 34, or related legislation come before the U.S. Senate for a vote. 

Barriers to competition? Allocate resources? My personal information is not a resource for my representatives to allocate by allowing these companies to have my personal data without my permission. He clearly does not have have an understanding of this issue if he bought into the lie it is about competition. And the $56,450 he received from telecom I’m sure had no sway in his “opinion”.

There is no justification for selling out your constituents. There’s no argument that can be made in defense of this bill other than that the Republican party believes that increasing the profits of telecom companies is more important than protecting the privacy of people.

Our Representatives Are Not Representing Us

Bacon, Egg, and Biscuit Casserole

I was getting ready to make breakfast this morning with my typical fanfare when I remembered I had a can of biscuits and wondered if I could do a little “monkey bread” style breakfast casserole. This certainly isn’t something I made up, but I did put it together myself and it turned out pretty dang good!


1 5-count can of biscuits

4 large eggs

4-5 slices of bacon

Milk

Shredded cheese

2 tbsp melted butter

Cook the bacon slices and as that is going, beat your eggs and milk together, along with some salt and pepper to taste, like you are making scrambled eggs. Tear apart the biscuits into quarters and add them in. Then add some cheese to taste. When the bacon is done chop it up and add that. Pour the mixture into a greased round baking dish and then drizzle the melted butter on top. Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes, or until tops of biscuits are brown.

Bacon, Egg, and Biscuit Casserole

Health Update

I’ve been on my own since Tuesday morning. That’s when Mom headed back home, which was tough for us both. I saw my primary care physician the day before and he said it was time for me to start gaining back normal life. But let me tell you, it is not coming easy. I’m struggling physically and spiritually. But the support of all my family and friends has just made all the difference. I’ve been taken such good care of through prayer support, housework, meals, and more! There have been plenty of tears produced in the last few weeks for bad reasons but the ones that come when I think about how blessed I am are happy ones.

I returned to work on Wednesday but I’m only cleared for partial days. I made it about three hours that day and then four on Thursday and Friday. The problem is my head really starts to swim with any stimulation or activity. I have to go back home and lay down. I’m basically resigning myself to live with this “new normal” for the long term. My stepdad, a retired RN, rightly thinks I’m still recovering from the meningitis. Offers the hope that one day I’ll just wake up and, in going about my day, realize I haven’t been light headed any more. That day can’t come soon enough, even as well as I’ve been doing. I just can’t seem to shake that woozy medicine head feel.

I have been getting a little better every day. I can see improvements, however small. Going to go to church tomorrow and enjoy the Christmas musical, though I’ll not be taking on my usual duties in the sound booth. I’m not all that sure I can commit to full work days come Monday either. If not, I’ll have to contact my doctor again for a work excuse but he is already prepared for it. I’m the one who actually talked him into just putting partial days through yesterday. That was dumb. I have my final follow up with him on the 19th.

I’ve had a trip to Dallas next Saturday planned for a while now but as of today, I don’t know if I’m up to making it. I booked an AM flight to Dallas, going to see my first home Dallas Stars game at 1 pm, then taking the last flight back to Little Rock. Worked out a little more than driving and staying overnight, but it’s much more convenient. I can’t get a refund on the flight if I don’t feel up to it but I can change it. Can always go to a game next spring. I just don’t think I’ll know until it’s time, so we’ll just have to see.

I’m dealing with so much right now in just recovering, but also another issue of adversity that I’ll not go into here. It all threatens to overwhelm me. My heart rate really hasn’t settled down with this distraction. And I know the answer is to take each day at a time. God is my source of strength, peace, and wisdom. I pray for those three things every day. Multiple times a day. It’s just hard when it doesn’t feel like there’s any resolutions. But James 1 stays at the center of my mind, that trials are given to produce endurance of faith. And Psalm 73, that God is my portion when my flesh and heart fail. And so I trust, I wait, I take it a day at a time, and I set my eyes on the Father. It’s all I can do.

Health Update