Friday, September 30, 2005

Honoring Comrades

A poignant piece on a family honoring buddies they saw killed in the Middle East – and never had time to mourn – appeared in the Denver Rocky Mountain News. Lance Cpl. Mike Ball was one of those who travelled to Colorado at the call from the parents of the late Lance Cp. Kyle Burns. Jo and Bob Burns asked those who last saw their son alive.

Kyle died in Fallujah on Veteran's Day, 2004, hit by a rocket-protelled grenade. At the cemetery, his comrades said they had not been able to assimilate it until now. Dustin Barker, Kyle's best friend in the platoon, said, "When you're over there, there's no time to grieve. You worry that if you do, you'll get someone killed.

Ball added, "I strted to let the tears come, but we had patrol in 10 minutes. You have to shut it off. We just got in the vehicles and started driving."

Note: I recommend reading the whole article, which is by Jim Sheeler. Be warned that it is moving.

The article concludes with:
When it was all over, the two tallest, toughest-looking Marines at the Burns' table stood and hugged Jo Burns, then each other.

Suddenly, Lance Cpl. Ball's face turned red, then exploded into tears. As he pressed his head into Barker's shoulder, the sobbing spread. Other Marines from the company grabbed hold of each other. They held tight for nearly a minute, holding nothing back.

Eventually, someone started to laugh, and they all laughed for a few seconds, then began to cry again, the tears darkening their deep blue uniforms. After regaining his breath several minutes later, Ball thumped Barker on the back.

"That stuff has been bottled up for so long," Ball said.

"It feels so good to get it out," he said, patting his buddy on the back. "Now we can mourn too."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Converting Yobs in Wales

Punkish behavior has been responding to a program in Flintshire, North Wales, U.K. It has a name that doesn't really fit on a t-shirt, but the Flintshire Anti-Social Behaviour Review Group works because it involves the kids.

Mike Ball is coordinator of the Holway Estate Neighbourhood Watch. In the first year of operation at the housing project, juvenile incidents went from 80 to 22 and overall anti-social incidents from 256 to 155. That includes everything from littering to domestic violence.

The program started under a grant of about $2.5 million for the 410 homes in the area.

Ball said, "It's the result of partnership between youth groups, residents and tenants, neighbourhood watch, police and council." In addition, cause and effect seem important. He added that "(w)hen you reported a crime, a police officer came and then if there is a followup visit it might have been another police officer who attended." Now a dedicated officer is available for continuity.

The program is seen as a model for other neighborhoods.

Note: The original source was the Liverpool Daily Post, September 3, 2006, page 16, which is not online.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Diploma Mills Watchdogs in Washington

It seems that Washington State is a hot spot for down and dirty, quick and easy (and inexpensive) college degrees by the Net or mail. An article in the Spokane Spokesman details the diploma-mill problem.

University of Illinois Professor Geoge Gollin has a Website that records and publicizes the problem and various actions against them. While Gollin got his real doctorate from Princeton, he notes that a non-accredited Parkwood Univeristy offered him a bachelor's, master's and doctorate in "systems engineering" for $4,400.

Mike Ball, Washington's Associate Director, Degree Authorization and Veterans Programs, for the Higher Education Coordinating Board points to legal loopholes that make his state a breeding ground for such tripe. As the article notes, "A school must have an actual building in the state to give the HEC Board jurisdiction, Ball said. State laws, written before the rapid advance of the Internet, don't consider if an online school's registrant lives in Washington."

His counterpart in Oregon says his state is different. Alan Contreras of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization said, "In Washington, you can buy a degree for $500 in the morning and put it on your resume that same afternoon."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Volvo Revolves in London

Volvo has been sellling over 600 of its double-decker B7Tl buses a year in London since 2002. CEO of Volvo Bus Ltd. Mike Ball said the success in understandable.

"When the roads are congested, the double decker has one unbeatable advantage with its length of only 10.5 metres and a capacity for 85-90 passengers."

This has become even more important since the congestion inspired the city to charge high fees for driver. The effort is to get even more to take public transit.

Volvo Bus has also gotten orders for the model from Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Dublin and Sheffield, Mike added.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Freedom of Blog

The PATRIOT Act has not gone quite so far yet, but in some of the world, blogging, email and other Net activities can mean jail or worse. The French Reporters sans frontières (Reporters without borders) aims to keep blogging fun and safe.

The new Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents is online in PDF for free or for €10 on the RSF site. The English download is here. Languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Persian.

There's plain good sense and procedures about how to blog. Of particular interest are chapters on:
  • How to blog anonymously
  • Technical ways to get around censorship
  • Ensuring your email is truly private

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

NIMBY in Maine

Less illustrious than some with our name, Mike Ball of South Thomaston, Maine, still acted civically when it came to the methadone clinic. Last December, Rockland in the midcoast held a city council meeting centered on whether to allow a clinic downtown. After testimony, including Mike's, they blocked it.

Interestingly enough, they changed the zoning law and redefined a methadone clinic as a sole source pharmacy. The effect will be to let it open up outside of town on Rte. 90, an industrial area.

When it was his turn, Mike said that as a recovering drug addict, he opposed it downtown.
He remembered that while using drugs he secured methadone illegally, and suggested other drug users would be drawn to the area if a clinic opened. "I'm saying there's going to be a lot of problems," he said.
His remarks were applauded.

Monday, September 19, 2005


According to the German computer game site, The Legacy, the nostalgic game museum, Mike Ball made his mark.

He was a programmer for both Mr. Blobby and for Defcon 5.

These were early games for the Amiga 500/600 (OCS/ECS), Mr. Blobby and for the IBM PC (DOS). The latter had bad reviews though.

Does anyone know where this Mike Ball is?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pass-Along Career

Our umpiring Mike Ball modified the father-to-son sports tradition this season. His daughter became the first father-to-daughter WAFL umpire.

Kendell Ball is also only the second female to officiate league football in Australia.

According to the WAFL news story, she never consider it a problem.

“People have talked about it from the moment I started umpiring and I never saw it as an issue,” she said. “Obviously dad umpired a lot of footy and is still involved now, but I haven’t felt any pressure to do anything differently. He was a field umpire, I’m a goal umpire and I’ve just focused on doing my job well.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Singer Does G&S

I try not to cover the British singer with our name, but I just ran across today's New York Times review of him at the City Opera in New York. (The review should be free online for a week.)

The City Opera site bills him as "(m)usical theater superstar" and quotes the London Mail as calling him "the best musical theater tenor of his generation."

The Times reviewer, Bernard Holland, doesn't care much for the female lead. Of the two tenors, he write:
The City Opera is fortunate in its two competing suitors: Michael Ball as Bunthorne and Kevin Burdette as Grosvenor. Both sing beautifully, both are comic athletes, and both are capable of evoking real people out of egregious exaggeration...And so the evening goes. The costumes by Merrily Murray-Walsh have a psychedelic splendor that carries us cheerfully past any recognizable world. We keep thinking, "Too much, too much," and then Mr. Ball and Mr. Burdette appear and charm the pants off us.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ball on Bouncing

As a report from Perth, Australia, so predictably put it, "(t)he appropriately named WAFL Umpire Coach Mike Ball gave our reporter Sinead Mangan a lesson...and he says 'bouncing the football is just a technique that some people have and some people don't have."

He's with the Western Australia Football League, rugby to us. The ruckmen (forwards) need to be able to maneuver when the umpire bounces the ball on the turf to start play.

To do this, Mike explained, the ball needs to go straight down, then straight up. "You don't have to bounce it too hard."

The technique is to take the ball in front of you with one hand on each end. Then, "(t)ake one or two steps up and as you go walking in, you lift it up above your bring it out, bring the ball back to head height, perpendicularly up, and then with one foot, bend over and bounce it down."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 Then and Now

I am old enough to know what duck and cover means. I also get a tight chest whenever I hear a fire-station alarm or anything that sounds like an air-raid warning. That's a real legacy of the Baby Boomers –– terrify your children to make them feel safe.

For those of us in Boston after September 11, 2001, another sound recalled those anxieties. Night after night, the only sounds from above were the guttural and threatening growls of fighter jets. While our part of town is far from Logan, the white noise of the occasional, high evening jet headed to fun and sun in Europe or elsewhere is part of the city. When it is replaced with the sounds of warships patrolling the skies, the September attacks are always flying with them.

Our town was where the uber-bad guys left to destroy the Twin Towers. They weren't interested in terrorizing Boston, just using it as their launching pad.

Right after that day of horror, I wrote We build `em, but they don't come (28K PDF). Editors seemed to think it wasn't funny and would never be funny. See if you agree.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Other Business in Wal-Mart Country

Michael Ball is president of the Conway Networking Advantage, the local chapter of the Business Network International in Arkansas.

The organization is a clearing house for business professionals in a wide variety of fields from accountants to women's fashions. As the organization's FAQ notes:
  1. WHAT is BNI?
    A business marketing program that allows one person from each profession to join a chapter. The sole purpose of the chapter is to increase business through a structured system of giving referrals.
  2. WHERE does BNI meet?
    There are several chapters throughout Arkansas. See the "Find a chapter near you" feature. Contact Us for information on more chapters that are in development!
  3. WHEN does BNI meet?
    Every week, so that members maintain contact and exchange regular referrals. Take a look at the different times the chapters meet in our Chapter directory.
This Michael heads Conway Mail Service.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tug on the Memory 2

It didn't take long to locate my tugboat hero. An email to the Bar Harbor Historical Society brought the quick reply that it surely was Dr. George Ledyard Stebbins, Jr.

He was quite illustrious (one of the shorter CVs on the Net is here). I prefer to think of him as the charming character on his porch overlooking Seal Harbor rather than the eminent biologist and botanist.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Author, Author, Author, Author...

Quite a few of us with this name have published one or more books. We just discovered another Michael Ball author.

This one self-published his novel, The Brothers Seven, Outskirts Press, 328 pp.

It is available from the publisher or the usual suspects such as Amazon. It lists for $15. Outskirts also sells it as an ebook for $4.

The blurb includes:
Seven "‘brothers" decide to take on the crooked CEO'’s who are stealing from the American worker, shareholder, and communities and become popular Robin Hood figures in the eyes of the American people...There is greed, sex, violence, murder, stealing, heartbreak, mystery, technology, and finally retribution for the American people. The Brothers Seven throw fear into the hearts of every dishonest CEO in America. It is thrilling to know someone can finally stand up to these corporate fat cats...
This Michael was born in 1945, is a Nam vet ahas hs a management-sciences degree from Oakland University. He worked in the auto industry for 40 years. This is his first novel, after a career including white papers, speeches, newsletters and articles.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Quebec Engineering Honors

At Transport Canada, the engineer with our name received highest distinction as an engineer on April 14, 2000. The Order of Honor at the Companion Level went to Michael A. Ball, chief, research and policy coordination, safety and security for the agency.

The article
on his award described his professional activities. Then it added:
He has also demonstrated leadership in promoting engineering in a variety of community venues from local science fairs to national events. In 1992, he proposed and championed the first National Festival of Engineering, the predecessor of the current National Engineering Week.

It has been said that no amount of personal time seemed to be too much when it came to Michael's work to advance the profession of engineering.