Writer’s Block

I’ve been leading lots of discussions lately. Sunday was adult Sunday School. Today was the “Wild Hope” faculty seminar. This served as our springboard. I’m available for hire if you have a discussion that needs leading.

And I’ve returned to full-time teaching. My writing students are dissecting Stoicism; my graduate teachers’-to-be, Annette’s Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods.

As a result of these activities, lots of ideas are swirling around in my pea-brain. The problem is I’m struggling to carve out enough time to organize, and clearly and convincingly communicate them.

Thus I’ve mistitled this post. It’s not really writer’s block. More accurately, my “To Do” list is kicking my ass. But fear not, that’s a temporary condition. I shall overcome.

 

Paragraphs to Ponder

Can’t get enough of the Pimco soap opera:

“Sources also told the Journal that Gross referred to himself as “Secretariat,” the legendary racehorse. The article also said that Gross doesn’t like his traders making eye contact or speaking with him.”

Make like Gross and peruse the following list of Derby winners back to my birth year and choose a new name to use at your workplace. I’m torn between Charismatic, Majestic Prince, and Decidedly.

Kentucky Derby winners
Year Winner Jockey Trainer Owner Time*
2014 California Chrome Victor Espinoza Art Sherman Steve Coburn & Perry Martin 2:03.66
2013 Orb Joel Rosario Claude McGaughey III Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable 2:02.89
2012 I’ll Have Another Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neill J. Paul Reddam 2:01.83
2011 Animal Kingdom John Velazquez H. Graham Motion Team Valor 2:02.04
2010 Super Saver Calvin Borel Todd Pletcher WinStar Farm 2:04.45
2009 Mine That Bird Calvin Borel Bennie L. Woolley, Jr. Double Eagle Ranch et al. 2:02.66
2008 Big Brown Kent Desormeaux Richard E. Dutrow, Jr. IEAH Stables / P. Pompa 2:01.82
2007 Street Sense Calvin Borel Carl Nafzger James B. Tafel 2:02.17
2006 Barbaro Edgar Prado Michael R. Matz Lael Stables 2:01.36
2005 Giacomo Mike E. Smith John Shirreffs Jerry & Ann Moss 2:02.75
2004 Smarty Jones Stewart Elliott John Servis Someday Farm 2:04.06
2003 Funny Cide Jose Santos Barclay Tagg Sackatoga Stable 2:01.19
2002 War Emblem Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert Thoroughbred Corp. 2:01.13
2001 Monarchos Jorge F. Chavez John T. Ward, Jr. John C. Oxley 1:59.97
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus Kent Desormeaux Neil Drysdale Fusao Sekiguchi 2:01.00
1999 Charismatic Chris Antley D. Wayne Lukas Bob & Beverly Lewis 2:03.20
1998 Real Quiet Kent Desormeaux Bob Baffert Michael E. Pegram 2:02.20
1997 Silver Charm Gary Stevens Bob Baffert Bob & Beverly Lewis 2:02.40
1996 Grindstone Jerry Bailey D. Wayne Lukas Overbrook Farm 2:01.00
1995 Thunder Gulch Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas Michael Tabor 2:01.20
1994 Go for Gin Chris McCarron Nick Zito Condren & Cornacchia 2:03.60
1993 Sea Hero Jerry Bailey MacKenzie Miller Rokeby Stables 2:02.40
1992 Lil E. Tee Pat Day Lynn S. Whiting W. Cal Partee 2:03.00
1991 Strike the Gold Chris Antley Nick Zito BCC Stable 2:03.00
1990 Unbridled Craig Perret Carl Nafzger Frances A. Genter 2:02.00
1989 Sunday Silence Pat Valenzuela Charlie Whittingham H-G-W Partners 2:05.00
1988 Winning Colors Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas Eugene V. Klein 2:02.20
1987 Alysheba Chris McCarron Jack Van Berg D. & P. Scharbauer 2:03.40
1986 Ferdinand Bill Shoemaker Charlie Whittingham Elizabeth A. Keck 2:02.80
1985 Spend A Buck Angel Cordero, Jr. Cam Gambolati Dennis Diaz 2:00.20
1984 Swale Laffit Pincay, Jr. Woody Stephens Claiborne Farm 2:02.40
1983 Sunny’s Halo Eddie Delahoussaye David C. Cross, Jr. D. J. Foster Stable 2:02.20
1982 Gato Del Sol Eddie Delahoussaye Edwin J. Gregson Hancock & Peters 2:02.40
1981 Pleasant Colony Jorge Velasquez John P. Campo Buckland Farm 2:02.00
1980 Genuine Risk Jacinto Vasquez LeRoy Jolley Diana M. Firestone 2:02.00
1979 Spectacular Bid Ronnie Franklin Bud Delp Hawksworth Farm 2:02.40
1978 Affirmed Steve Cauthen Laz Barrera Harbor View Farm 2:01.20
1977 Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet William H. Turner, Jr. Karen L. Taylor 2:02.20
1976 Bold Forbes Angel Cordero, Jr. Laz Barrera E. Rodriguez Tizol 2:01.60
1975 Foolish Pleasure Jacinto Vasquez LeRoy Jolley John L. Greer 2:02.00
1974 Cannonade Angel Cordero, Jr. Woody Stephens John M. Olin 2:04.00
1973 Secretariat Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stable 1:59.40
1972 Riva Ridge Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stud 2:01.80
1971 Canonero II Gustavo Avila Juan Arias Edgar Caibett 2:03.20
1970 Dust Commander Mike Manganello Don Combs Robert E. Lehmann 2:03.40
1969 Majestic Prince Bill Hartack Johnny Longden Frank M. McMahon 2:01.80
1968* Forward Pass Ismael Valenzuela Henry Forrest Calumet Farm 2:02.20
1967 Proud Clarion Bobby Ussery Loyd Gentry, Jr. Darby Dan Farm 2:00.60
1966 Kauai King Don Brumfield Henry Forrest Ford Stable 2:02.00
1965 Lucky Debonair Bill Shoemaker Frank Catrone Ada L. Rice 2:01.20
1964 Northern Dancer Bill Hartack Horatio Luro Windfields Farm 2:00.00
1963 Chateaugay Braulio Baeza James P. Conway Darby Dan Farm 2:01.80
1962 Decidedly Bill Hartack Horatio Luro El Peco Ranch 2:00.40

Every Team is Better and Worse Off Because You’re On It

Atul Gawande, one of my favorite authors, is about to gain a wider audience through this new book that will do very well.

His New Yorker essay, Cowboys and Pit Crews, got me thinking about how we live our lives on a never ending series of teams whether grade school classrooms, athletic teams, art and music based teams, community groups, home owners associations, church councils, families, school faculties, work teams, book clubs, special interest groups, political campaigns, boards of directors, etc.

You would never guess that if your only frame of reference was elementary, secondary, and higher education classrooms in the United States. Students almost always work on things individually and faculty almost always assess students individually. Sure, sometimes students work in small groups, but they’re not taught to be thoughtful observers of small group dynamics. It’s rare that they’re ever asked why some small groups work well and others don’t. Too often, teachers wrongly assume students already know how to be good teammates. As a result, students tend to be clueless about group dynamics.

And since teamwork doesn’t factor into student evaluations, they’re even less self aware of their team-based strengths and weaknesses. They’re hardly ever asked the most basic group process related questions such as, “What do you do well as a team member? What’s most challenging for you when working closely with others? Where could you improve?”

Every person, you included, has specific skills, knowledge, and personal attributes that benefit and hamper all of the teams they are on at any one time. Which of your skills, knowledge, and personal attributes do your team’s often use to positive advantage? And how does your presence on teams sometimes limit their effectiveness? What could you do better as a teammate?

Aren’t sure how to answer those questions? Welcome to the “Almost Everybody” Club. It’s not your fault. Individualism is so pervasive in American life, schools think about students as cowboys  and cowgirls despite the fact they’ll live their lives on pit crew after pit crew.

 

The Thing About Spelling

Some people equate spelling with morality. Good spellers, good people. The sheeps and goats in the New Testament? Good and bad spellers. Spelling’s importance is a topic capable of producing more heat than Adrian Peterson’s parenting, Scottish independence, and Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Parents worry incessantly that their children are destined to always be poor spellers. What kind of lives will they live? Will people whisper about us? Heaven help children with dyslexia.

This week the New York Times ran this lead front and center on their website, “A geneticist wins a prestigious Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation award and uses the spotlight to all for much wider genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancer.” Technically that’s a typo, but the Spelling Police don’t distinguish. The Spelling Police LOVE reading things like that. It gives them a purpose for being. And makes them feel superior. “Know that I am among those that can spell.” They despise any variance from what they deem to be “writing conventions”. Like when people start sentences with “And”.

Before determining if spelling is a life or death matter, we have to distinguish between drafts and final copies. Most of what we write and read, like electronic messages, are drafts. In fact, where does the constantly updating front page of the New York Times fall on that continuum? Irregardless, many would read that lead and think less of The Grey Lady. I would too if it happened with any regularity, but it doesn’t. Doesn’t matter, short of perfection, the Spelling Police pounce. If only they’d save their righteous indignation for final drafts.

Like teachers’ letters to parents. Nothing gets the Spelling Police more fired up than teachers’ letters to parents. Full. Riot. Gear. Misspell a word, lose your life right to teach my child ever again.

I’m not advocating for laissez faire (damn, got that right on the first try) creative spelling. Instead of seeing every spelling error as an opportunity to assert their spelling prowess, maybe the Spelling Police could take a second or two to consider whether the error is part of a larger pattern or not. If not, maybe you could try the impossible. Letting that one error on the third grade paper go, or the one in the newspaper, or heaven help us, the one in the parent letter.

Sometimes, okay, a lot of the times, I amaze myself—fore hundred and six words and not a single mispelling.

 

 

 

Apple Watch and iPhones: iNitial Reaction

The Apple Watch. My favorite Apple watcher, John Gruber, said this Benjamin Clymer review of the Apple watch is the best one yet. If Gruber says it, it’s true.

Henry Blodget is smart, that’s why his ignorant comments that the Apple Watch is completely irrelevant shocked me. He’s forgotten history, in particular how unenthused nearly everyone was when the iPhone and iPad were first released.

Having said that, I will not be keeping my word because I will not be buying it this go round. I’ll wait a few iterations. I bought a new watch a year ago. My Garmin Forerunner 10 is one of my favorite possessions. It’s a brilliant watch because it only has the most essential functions I need. Meaning it’s simple to use. And it’s waterproof. And, unless I’m using the GPS feature a lot, the charge lasts several days.

The Apple watch isn’t waterproof. Deal breaker. I do not want to take my watch off every time I hit the pool or bathtub. And allegedly, you have to charge it overnight meaning I wouldn’t be able to use it to wake up. My one-third the cost Forerunner 10 has the perfect alarm—not too grating, but loud enough to always do the trick. No doubt Garmin knows what Blodget seemingly doesn’t, the Watch will get much better pretty quickly and prove brutallly tough competition. I may end up being their last customer. Maybe I should buy an extra “10” or two in case they die a sudden death.

Also, most of the Watch apps will require iPhone tethering. Really, I have to carry a new larger iPhone in order to see fitness data on my Watch? A two-part problem. 1) Getting a comfortable enough, water/sweat proof carrying case so that the phone “disappears” while running. Cyclists will most likely use a case and then just toss it in their back-middle jersey pocket. 2) The additional weight. When you pretend you’re an elite athlete, every gram or ounce counts. :)

I had a great run this morning. It was 52 degrees out and it was pitch black when I left, and 10k later, I was bathed in beautiful morning light. I took three things—shoes, socks, shorts.

The only reason to buy the first Watch is to subject acquaintances, friends, and family to status envy. That is always sufficient motivation for lots of people.

The phones. All previous sales records will be shattered. Sleepless nights for Samsung. Their worst fears are being realized as evidenced by this. I’m holding my AAPL shares and should probably use my Watch savings to buy three and a half more.

I THINK I want one. The pretend elite cyclist in me is thinking 4.7″, but the aging reader is thinking 5.5″. Maybe I’ll take a year to decide.

That collective sigh was my friends who have grown weary of my annoying quirk.

The iWeek Ahead

iMiss the days when everyone in and around Apple was afraid to death of Steve Jobs and what he would do if there was a leak. Far less was known prior to major pressers like this Tuesdays.

Predictions. More incremental improvements to the world’s best smart phone. Larger, sharper, more durable screens; faster processors; more memory, improved battery life. iPhone 6 users will soon be paying for all sorts of things by quickly swiping their phones.

An iWatch that keeps time more accurately than any previous watch ever. All of your social media on your wrist all of the time. Steadily declining marketshare for the top-selling personal fitness and health devices. Wireless charging.

Analysts will complain the products cost too much. On Friday, AAPL shareholders like me will have less money that we do right now.

People will find the money for both products. Fourth quarter 2014 and first quarter 2015 sales will set new records and exceed almost everyone’s expectations. The stock will recover and sometime soon the Good Wife and I will once again start eating at Vic’s on Saturday nights.

I’ll buy everything Tim offers for sale Tuesday. Maybe even for myself. If I go against type and follow through on that this time, my friends, a resilient bunch, will quickly find new things about me to ridicule. Like the humble blog. Their favorite line, which they find endlessly entertaining, “You have a blog?!”

The products will not improve the quality of my life. I will not free up more time or experience more joy. I will not be more insightful. I will not write or teach any better. I will not listen more patiently or find more humor in things. I will not be more kind or generous. I will not display greater appreciation for my health or the natural world.

Take this prediction to the bank. No combination of sleek and shiny iProducts will make me a better person or improve the quality of my iLife. Make like Stuart Smalley and repeat that mantra in the mirror this week and let the iHype pass over you.