A Dimm View of Life

Location: Illinois, United States

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

After All, It's a Small World!

Recently I wrote about two people who were part of my extended family who passed away recently. Earlier this week, I was shocked when reminded of a third person who passed away who I failed to mention, lending to the old saw that “things happen in threes”.

There are two reasons I was surprised by the reminder. The first reason is person who passed away was closer to me in terms of family. Of the two people I wrote previously about, one was a workplace acquaintance while the other was my wife’s uncle. The second reason I was surprised is that the person passed away before I wrote the essay “Good Trade”.

The person I was reminded of was an uncle. He was not a blood relative, having married the sister of my mother, but he was still what people consider to be a close family member.

In this case, our two families should have been close. We lived in the same small mid-western town. The children in my family and the children in their family were close in age. We both were frequent visitors to our Grandmother’s home, which sat a short two blocks from the home where I grew up, but we still rarely saw each other there.

One of the mysteries of my short life is how two families with so much in common grew farther and farther away despite a close physical proximity. I have heard reasons from various members of my family. In case you are hoping, I will tell you now that I am not going to air any “soiled linens”. The foul stories and complaints are going to lay low. None of that is the point of today’s blog.

In my view I feel that the world is getting smaller. We are now, with the assistance of the internet, cell phones and other electronic devices, able to communicate around the world. We are able to research and understand far more than ever before. Travel is easier and more frequent despite the threats of terrorism.

Yet, individually, some of us are working hard to keep the world at arms length. This is not true of everyone. Maybe the people with this attitude are in the minority. Unfortunately, I see and hear about it each day.

Within my own family, I am not close to my siblings. I love them with a strong heart and yet it is a rare occasion when we will agree to get together. We seem to be all talk, but can never find the time in our busy schedules.

Each of my siblings lives far from where my wife and I make our home. They do not live more that a few short hours away, however, which makes my feel sad. We have each raised children who barely know their cousins. We rarely know what is happening in each other’s lives.

The touchstone is our parents. Even there, my parents often have little news of what is going on with the others when I hear from them.

At my workplace, we are encouraged to go on outings as a group and bring food to work for a “potluck” meal. These often have uneven and almost discouraging results.

I must admit, I am one of the biggest culprits of sabotaging these efforts. During my time away from work, I would rather spend time with my wife and children than with my co-workers. I already devote forty or more hours to them each week. I honestly would not want to spend any more time unless it is for a “farewell” party or to enjoy a company provided meal (never happened in six years!).

Potlucks are even more suspect. I am a terrible cook and refuse to ask my wife to prepare something to take to people we she has never met. I often agree to bring chips, pop or buns to these gatherings. However, as a leader, that does not inspire the team members to “pitch-in” with “meal-like” substances.

Even the suggestion of a “dessert” potluck was met with long faces.

Yet some of the other teams where I work have glorious potlucks and “food days”. The problem may lie either in my leadership (likely) or in the mix of individuals on the teams (possible).

So why are we so emotionally distant when the world is becoming physically closer? Whether we are talking about families or friends, we seem to be friendly without establishing friendships. Are we afraid that people, even brothers and sisters, will expect too much from us?

I wish I had an answer. Instead, I think I have an email or two to send. There are some people I have not spoken to for awhile.


Monday, May 15, 2006


Just a few hours ago, Monday, May 15, 2006, President Bush spoke to the nation about the effects of illegal immigration and what he proposes our country do to help resolve the issue. There is agreement on my part with some of the things he had to say. Our President offered five objectives in his speech. In my view, although I do not agree with everything said, he did come close to hitting the mark.

Objective #1 – Securing the Borders: He did not suggest a 12,000 mile wall. Thank goodness for that. I am amazed at the number of adult men and women, some in our Congress, who honestly believe in such a thing. Our President gets points for not supporting such a ridiculous idea.

What he does suggest is implementing current and new technologies and doubling the border patrol. This is a very visible plan, but not one that will amount to much. He also talked about expanding the number of beds in detention facilities and ending the “catch and release” practice our country uses with immigrants of other countries.

My questions include: What does “catch and release” have to do with the Mexican border? How does increasing the number of beds in detention facilities really help the situation? It appears that we are addressing symptoms and not the disease.

Objective #2 – Temporary Worker Program: Our President said, “They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country.” He is right. This has to stop. Men, women and children are put in physical danger needlessly. As long as there is money and shelter on the other side, no wall is going to stop them. People are literally dying to get here.

Will a Temporary Worker Program help? In his speech tonight, our President said, “A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers, and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers.”

If this program will truly cut down on human smugglers and make it less likely for people to risk their lives, I am for it. I am not convinced that this alone will solve the problem. Of course, he really it is not depending on this alone (is he?). That is why he has five objectives.

Objective #3 – Tamper Proof Identification: I like this one. Will country follow through with the plan? If employers are prosecuted for hiring anyone who is not an American and does not carry this identification, then I am a whole-hearted supporter.

Of course, this is not the emphasis that our President offers. He does not mention prosecuting employers during this objective. He simply says it will make it “harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country”. These are not exactly fear-causing words.

Objective #4 – Opposition to Amnesty: This does not sound like an objective, but an opinion. However, I agree with our President on this one, too. He says, “Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant -- and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border.” I am as amazed about this as I am about the 12,000 mile wall.

Seemingly intelligent men and women are screaming for every illegal alien to be deported. I feel like I am in a Twilight Zone episode to see that President Bush is a “voice of reason” on this point.

Where I get lost is this insistence on people who come to America to learn to speak English. I would believe they would want to learn to speak English in order to assimilate into society, but why insist? Most people I know learn how to drive at sixteen but many people in cities do not drive cars. Do we need to deport them for finding alternative ways of transportation? Why fuss about people who can capably communicate, just not in the same language as the majority of our country?

Objective #5 – The American Melting Pot: Again, no real objective here, but this is the point the flute and drum start up behind the speaker and the flags begin to wave. This section appears to be more about speaking English than anything else.

Earlier today I listened to Senator Barack Obama’s podcast of 05/04/06 (I know. I am behind). It can be found at Senator Obama’s website. In it he refers to a “servant class”. He is talking about people who mow lawns and pick lettuce and do the jobs regular Americans do not want. This sounds an awful lot to me like a class of people in America back in the 19th century. These were people doing work that “regular Americans” would not do. They were not paid the way “regular Americans” were paid. They were not expected to pay taxes. They were not treated as citizens. One difference I see between the “servant class” of the 21st century and that of the 19th century is that the current group comes here voluntarily.

The most important objective is the one that our President didn’t specifically outline but simply brushed over amid his other objectives. The closest he comes is saying, “A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law, and leave employers with no excuse for violating it.” It does not define what we will do to employers, but it is a message of sorts that people employing illegal immigrants must stop.

We must prosecute Americans. I know that is a bitter pill, but if you want to stop illegal immigration you must stop worrying about those coming in and stop the ones giving them the money and shelter they seek.

In March of this year, Molly Ivins wrote, " You can also imprison the corporate official who actually hired the illegal and, just to make sure, put some Betty Sue Billups -- housewife, preferably one with blonde hair in a flip -- in the joint for a two-year stretch for hiring a Mexican gardener. Thus Americans are reminded that the law says it is illegal to hire illegal workers and that anyone who hires one is responsible for verifying whether or not his or her papers are in order. If you get fooled and one slips by you, too bad, you go to jail anyway. When there are no jobs for illegal workers, they do not come. Got it?”

The talk of immigration is an incredible red herring. It is intended to distract us from the real issues of the day. Those currently in office do not want us thinking about Iraq, Iran, Abramoff, New Orleans and other dubious issues. They want us to believe that illegal immigrants are our enemy.

As Obama and so many others have stated, written and reported, the problem if illegal immigration has been in our country for years. Will this President’s proposal resolve it? No, but if implemented correctly, it may help.

The real question is: Will it be implemented correctly? If the past six years are any example, we may be witnessing the start of another mission with a messy outcome.

If you have an opinion, now is the time to make it known. Do not wait. Write, call, email, shout, sing, scream, pray aloud, do a dance, or whatever you can think to make an impact. Get in touch with a Congressman or Senator or even your local paper.

Remember that this is still America. Ideas are welcome.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Peoria Chiefs and the Chicago Cubs

The Cubs lost again today.

I may be discouraged, but I am not about to give up on this team. I may not write about them much after tonight, because baseball people are superstitious, but I am not giving up on these guys.

The Cubs were winning when I last wrote about my passion for the team. Since then they have been dropping like a rock. So, of course, the only way they can redeem their winning ways is if I stop writing about them. Make sense doesn't it?

Baseball people are both intelligent and crazy. The strategizing, etc. shows the intelligent side. The crazy superstitions show the crazy side. Still, they go hand in hand with most baseball people.

Today, however, I am not truly writing about the Cubs, per se. I have a little good news today. Kerry Wood, the Cubs beleaguered big league pitcher, had a rehabilitation start in Peoria tonight. There he gave up one hit, one walk and struck out twelve Lansing Lugnuts over five innings. An exceptional outing you would expect from a premier pitcher like Wood.

Three years ago, my son and I had an opportunity to visit Wrigley. Yes, that was during the magical 2003 season. We watched the Cubs defeat the Florida Marlins behind the pitching of, you guessed it, Kerry Wood. The Florida Marlins team featured two players who have since moved on: Derrick Lee and Juan Pierre.

Last week I read where Kerry Wood would be pitching in Peoria, IL in a rehab start. I always wanted to visit a minor league baseball park and thought this would be a fun game for my son and I.

By the time I got on line to search out tickets, it was obvious that most of the seats were long gone. Plus with a late start and my son having school in the morning, it really did not seem like a good idea.

Instead, I looked at Saturday's seating. There were plenty of good box seats available for that game. On a lark, we decided to check it out.

We had an incredible time. If you enjoy baseball in the least and you live anywhere near a minor league club, you must go visit. I was so impressed.

True, the level of play was not up to major league standards, but there is plenty of talent on the field. Someday, these fellows are going to be Cubs. Or maybe Marlins or Blue Jays, but some of these guys have what it takes to make the jump.

During his first at bat I turned to my son and told him to watch first baseman Ryan Norwood. "This guy is going to be a major league player someday." During the eighth inning, my prediction looked more reliable as Norwood pounded one over the right field wall. (I am not that good. I had read about Norwood online and knew he had spent time with the Cubs during spring training.)

What really impressed me was not just the home run or the fact the Chiefs won the game 6 to 4. It was how the stadium was run and especially the fans who attended. Every person who worked for O'Brien Field, from the ushers to the people working the hot dog stands, was wonderful. They smiled. They asked if we were having a good time. They had enthusiasm. It was everywhere! It is what I would ask of my hotel clerks when I worked as a hotel manager. It is a hard concept to get across, but the people working for the Chiefs in Peoria have it mastered.

The fans were impressive as well. Oh, sure, there were a couple of fellows with loud, projecting voices they were certain everyone loved as much as they did. But what I saw were plenty of families. People were respectful of one another and really had a good time.

At one moment, a foul ball went over our heads and nearly bounced straight to me. Before it could get there an older gentleman with sure hands reached up and made a great play. We could not help but cheer.

My son had stepped away and went he returned I told him the story of the fellow who caught the foul ball. Two innings or so later, the man walked over to us and offered the ball to my son. I couldn't believe it. It could be that he is a season ticket holder and has his share of foul balls. He mumbled something about getting a signature before walking away.

Taking his suggestion to heart, at the end of the game, we stopped by the Chief's dugout. Infielder Brandon Taylor, who had the game-winning hit during the game, signed the ball first. Then Peoria manager and former Cub all-star Jody Davis grabbed a pen. There were plenty of boys, girls and fathers with programs and baseballs. It really made my son's day to get a foul ball and a couple signatures.

Overall, a simple idea for spending an afternoon turned into a really special day. I believe that the people managing and working for the Peoria Chiefs and O'Brien field has something very special. We will be back. I hope others will seek out the entertainment available through minor league baseball.

Today, I have included two new links. One is a Chicago Cubs link, which is an obvious choice being our favorite MLB team. I have also included the Peoria Chiefs, our new favorite minor league baseball team. Go there first and check it out!

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Truth from Podcasts

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. -Martin Luther King

The truth is hard to find sometimes. Currently I am searching for truths regarding the hot topic of immigration. I am hoping to post a discussion on this topic in the near future.

In my view, in order to understand something you need to look at it from all directions. Sometimes that is hard. Sometimes you are so entirely steadfast in an opinion it is difficult to look at a subject from an opposite view.

Other times it is hard to find an opposite view. Still other times it is hard to find anyone who sees things the way you do.

The only way to get to the truth on any topic is to get to the source. It is easy to let someone else spoon-feed opinions and information. There are a ton of people working today ready to tell you what to think and feel.

Years ago, it was advertising that was accused of such diabolical mind-altering activity. Today, we see it in the news departments of nearly every outlet, from newspapers to radio to television.

As we learned from the film "Good Night and Good Luck", it really is not a new phenomenon. Edward R. Murrow was not always "fair and balanced". Today it is more obvious. Even those claiming to be balanced are obviously reporting news the way they perceive it.

The only way to get the truth is to see it out first hand. This week, I've included three new podcasting links. These are just a few that I like to listen to. There are others, but these are among the best.

Surprise! One is the White House. It will be hard for some people to click the link and see our President smiling at you. However, the truth is found here. If you want to hear what the President is saying, listen to him! Do not trust what others say he said or what they say he meant. Listen to him! Judge for yourself.

I am not judging what he is saying as truthful. I am saying that if you want to know what he is saying, start here. Listen to the words. Read the transcripts. Then form your own opinions.

Then, listen to the pundits on both sides. Hear what they say. Is it the same as you heard? See which of these people you can trust.

Example: I watched the State of the Union address earlier this year. The next day, I switched on a biased program (not saying which side) and listened to their review of the President's performance. The program was three hours. It was interesting how the comments changed within the length of the program!

The program began with the commentator laughing hysterically about the President's reference to "switchgrass". Many attempts at humor were made at the President's expense.

During the second hour, the commentator stopped joking and made a couple respectful remarks about those who grow switchgrass. By the end of the program they were still discussing the environmental issues and possibilities for the days ahead, but nothing was said about the President being silly regarding the potential of switchgrass.

My view is that opinions are changeable. They are like the wind. A stance taken on Monday and be different on Friday. Facts, however, are facts. Try to get the facts before listening to the opinions.

The other two podcast websites I have included are KCBS of San Francisco and WBBM of Chicago. Both are CBS radio affiliates. KCBS is the only website I can count on to provide the Democratic Radio Address which is presented at roughly the same time and the President's address.

I like to listen to both back to back. They are rarely about the same subject, but I feel balanced listening to both. KCBS also has provided podcasts of some of Scott McClelland's press conferences and other public comments. These are things you can hear first hand and not filtered through others.

WBBM's site doesn't offer so much on a national scale, but does offer similar efforts on a local level. They offer press conferences and speeches by Mayor Richard Daley. They also have a local political program entitled "At Issue". For a great spirited discussion on immigration, go into the archives for the 4-7-06 podcast.

As I mentioned last week, I like places I can go to hear what people say first-hand. If you know if some similar places, let me know. As the weeks pass I'll continue to share mine with you.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Good Trade

This marks my lucky number thirteenth blog entry. One of the things I have learned about creating and writing a blog is that each one is imperfect.

In my view, if I could have eight hours each day to write, each entry would be perfect. Every syllable, every comma would be in the right place. The syntax would be incredible. The words would jump out of the computer and land on your head and do a little dance.

As it is, I do not have eight hours each day for writing. I’m lucky to have one hour to pound the keys. My previously spoken goal was to have three or four (preferably four) entries each week. My unspoken goal was to have an entry each day.

Three and maybe four a week has been closer.

Part of the problem is that I get wordy. I am not satisfied with writing three good paragraphs. I have to write a page and a half. That’s part of my “words dancing on your head” challenge.

Another problem is that life sometimes interrupts your life’s work. You can plan to have the time to be creative and have an idea worked out in your head, but sometimes the boss comes along with a project that needs your attention. Sometimes you need to shuttle family members one direction or another. Sometime you simply need to spend time with your family.

Sometime you just need to rest.

Other times life comes along and deals a blow that slows you down. Last week was one of those weeks.

There were two deaths last week. Each deserved my attention. One was a family member. Not a close family member, but they were family. Someone I had not gotten to know well, but they were a good father and uncle, etc. They had a good, loving family. It was good to see them and spend too short an amount of time with them.

It brought back memories of similar situations with closer family members. It also brings worries of those times yet to come.

Then, just as we were getting over the shock of one, I got word of more startling news.

My workplace is home to 350 to 400 workers. I have been employed there for over five years and hope to be there many more.

One morning I came to work and received word that we lost one of our workers. This is only the second person I am aware of to pass away while employed with our company. Not to scare anyone, but both have been team members of mine in the past.

This particular co-worker was just a little over a year older than I. They were hired prior to myself, but never pursued management as I did. We discussed it before, but they were content with the hours they worked and knew that a promotion would mean later hours and weekends. Any extra money was not worth the loss of time with their family.

They were the perfect team member. They came to work each day. They followed the rules. They helped our customers. They worked well with their team members.

They were good family people. They doted on their grand-daughter. Each Monday morning came with stories of what their grand-daughter said or did, or clothes or toys that they found at bargain-basement prices. When other team members were having children, our friend always had encouraging words of wisdom and ideas for any problems that were of concern.

If you had to build a prototype of what you would like in a co-worker, this is what you would design.

Now they are gone.

The company will survive. We have 350 to 400 other people. They do good work too.

Those who knew our team member…our friend…will survive too. But we will miss them.

So last week my Dimm world is missing two fine people. I lost the time I could have put to use writing something interesting for you to read. That time was spent, in part, saying goodbye.

As someone I knew years ago used to say: “Good trade.”


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Gotta Love The Cubs!

Since beginning this blog, I have not written much about baseball. I have mentioned watching the Cubs while writing a couple times (not today), but I have not gone into any long discussions about the smell of the grass and ivy covered walls.

You have not been bored with my childhood stories of watching Billy Williams, Rick Monday and Don Kessinger. You have not read of my excitement when the Cubs finally made the playoffs in 1984. You have not had to skim past a discussion of who I was more upset with in 2003: Bartman or Alou.

Nor have I issued my predictions for 2006, or shared my feelings of jealously regarding the 2005 Chicago White Sox.

Sometime, I will talk about all those things. Today, however, I want to talk briefly about how proud I am of the 2006 Chicago Cubs.

Today, the Cubs lost. Pittsburgh beat them, at Wrigley, eight to nothing. I am still proud of this team.

Let’s start at the top: Jim Hendry. For those of you not acquainted with all things Chicago baseball, Hendry is the Cubs’ general manager. That means, among other things, he is responsible for staffing this team. He signs players, makes trades and makes the final decisions regarding who is in the clubhouse. He gets input from various sources, including his field manager, Dusty Baker, but the onus is on him regarding whether the championship lands on the north side.

He has done well. He has provided nearly all the current team members since taking over as general manager. He has worked hard to ramp up a minor league system that hadn’t been providing much young talent.

This year, two starting pitchers expected to lead the club started the season on the disabled list. Sean Marshall has stepped up to fill a role alongside Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux. I can’t say enough about Marshall. He has the chance to be a leading member of this staff for years to come.

Jerome Williams and Glendon Rusch were both expected to help out. Both gave it their all, and at times looked very sharp. Still, as they have stepped aside, Hendry has young talent waiting. Angel Guzman had one good start although he didn’t look as great today. Rich Hill, who looked good last fall, will be stepping in to help until Wood and Prior return. If either of these to miss the mark, Jae Kuk Ryu is waiting for his chance. Hendry still has another card up his sleeve with former Houston star Wade Miller rehabbing and expected to be back by July 4th.

If pitching is the name of the game, Hendry has provided a ton of depth.

Not only that, he stocked up the weak bullpen of 2005 with veterans Howry and Eyre to go with Dempster and Williamson both of whom, like Miller, were signed while injured.
The Cubs needed a leadoff man and found one in Juan Pierre. He’s not hitting 300 yet and hasn’t stolen twenty bases, but he is providing a much needed spark for an offense used to waiting for a big home run.

Speaking of which, the two biggest bats in the lineup are currently silent. Derrick Lee was injured in a horrible play a couple weeks ago and likely won’t return until July. Aramis Ramirez has not been hitting like we are used to seeing in recent years. Still Ramirez has been contributing with his glove and it is only a matter of time before the bat comes around.

In the meantime, Michael Barrett and Matt Murton have been picking up the slack. Ronny Cedeno and Todd Walker, who so many worried about during spring training, have both been hitting over .300. Jacque Jones has been hot and cold but is still fun to watch.

Let us not forget the big man in the dugout: Dusty Baker. What I love best about Dusty, many people feel is a shortcoming. Dusty does not attack his players. He does not complain while they are playing for him or when they go.

You know he was mad at Sammy Sosa, but he only made a few vague comments. He hardly said anything discouraging about the disappointing Corey Patterson. He hasn’t said much about Barry Bonds from his San Francisco days.

Dusty is positive to the press and I believe he is positive behind closed doors as well. Does he get on his players? You bet! Recently, he read the riot act to Michael Barrett after he hurt his finger sliding into second base. Did he do it in front of cameras? Did he do it on television or radio? Not that I saw or read.

Nearly, to a man, this club is fun. They play hard. They rarely give up, even when losing thirteen to nothing.

The team lost today. No matter. They are still over .500. There is still a lot of baseball left in this season.

You never know. This may be their year. But then, I have said that before. Just not here.