The Sky’s The Limit

No world professional cycling team has gotten in touch with my representatives yet. While that offer still stands, suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by other enticing job opportunities in every imaginable sector of the economy.

I’m thinking about taking one of the many seats now available in Congress. The House would be cool, but I like the ring of Senator Byrnes and not having to fund raise non-stop. Nothing against Kansas, Minnesota, Texas, Nevada, or Arizona, but I think I’ll hold out another few weeks so that I can choose among even better states. Looking at you Colorado, Washington, Oregon.

ESPN analyst could be a cool gig. Living exclusively with hopelessly sports-challenged women, I don’t get to talk sports too often, but I could throw that switch. It would be a shame wasting talent like mine on reporting scores and spewing statistics. Maybe an eponymous sports and culture show or one dedicated to endurance sports.

Celebrity chef. I have that special cooking somethin’ somethin’ and I’ve grown accustomed to the fame this blog has brought me. Mercurial, check. Telegenic, check.

Hollywood actor/director/impresario. How hard can acting be? I’m mean they’re all pretending. And barking directions and funding projects? Not exactly rocket science.

My charm, smarts, and humility make me an excellent candidate for all of these openings; however, a few other things truly make my selection a no-brainer. I don’t make inappropriate comments to women about their appearance. I don’t grope women. I don’t ask them to come to my hotel room for “meetings”. I don’t greet them wearing only a bathrobe. I don’t expose myself to them. I don’t force myself on them. I don’t threaten them with reprisals.

I always thought my education, work experience, and professional friendships would tip the balance in my employment favor. Suddenly, not being a sexual predator Trumps all of those things.

 

 

 

Hire Me

Dear World Pro Cycling Teams:

I appreciate the opportunity to apply for your position as Performance Enhancing Drugs Wordsmith.

Let’s review where we are. Today’s news that the world’s best cyclist in a routine anti-doping test conducted at the Vuelta a España in September had double the legal limit of 1,000ng/ml of his asthma medication floating around his system, led Chris Froome to say this in his defense:

“My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my Salbutamol dosage.  As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose”. 

It’s imperative your riders mount a more credible defense than Froomey when their time in the performance enhancing drug spotlight inevitably comes. That’s where I’m confident you’ll find my services are a bargain at $50,000 per incident.

Every failed test is a little different requiring a true craftsman who can contextualize in a heartbeat. Here’s a little flavor flav of possible talking points for your team’s next PED presser. The first I call the “deflection”, which you’ll find far more subtle than the second, “faux confessional”.

•  “Like climate change, these results are more fake science compliments of a vast left-wing conspiracy. Over the millennia, there have always been abnormal tests results like these just as there have always been changing weather patterns. Noam Chomsky and my other accusers are sad (sick) guys. Maybe my critic-crybabies should train harder.”

•  “The reports of my failed drug test are true. Regretfully, starting several years ago, I succumbed to the drug-addled culture of the peloton and the pressure of my team’s docs to conform. I am ashamed and embarrassed by the vapidity of my “means justifies the ends” morality. Once I got accustomed to riding in the front of the peloton, I couldn’t help myself. I am not proud of my actions and I am sorry to have perpetuated a hoax on cycling fans the world over. I plan on taking extensive time off the bike to make amends to all of my sponsors, teammates, and fans.  [Long pause followed by bursts of laughter.] Kidding of course. Fuck you guys and your fake science. Maybe my critic-crybabies should improve their drug regimens.”

Similarly, I have a bevy of “hidden motor” responses in the quiver too. I look forward to hearing from. You can reach me at PedWordsmith@gmail.com.

 

Selecting The Wrong Leader. . . Again

Fighting an insidious attack on my immune system, I’ve opted to lean in to the sickness by reading the Atlantic’s God’s Plan for Mike Pence and the New York Times’s Inside Trump’s Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.

Journalism is hemorrhaging jobs, but fortunately, in some places, long form journalism is flourishing. These are detailed; thoughtful; and if you’re left-leaning, harrowing pieces.

From God’s Plan for Mike Pence:

“Scott Pelath, the Democratic minority leader in the Indiana House of Representatives, said that watching Pence vouch for Trump made him sad. “Ah, Mike,” he sighed. “Ambition got the best of him.” It’s an impression that even some of Pence’s oldest friends and allies privately share. As one former adviser marveled, ‘The number of compromises he made to get this job, when you think about it, is pretty staggering.'”

Tucked in the NYT piece were passing references to Trump’s twelve daily Diet Cokes and his regular dinner of. . .

“plates of well-done steak, salad slathered with Roquefort dressing and bacon crumbles, tureens of gravy and massive slices of dessert with extra ice cream.”

I’m calling bullshit on his doc’s glowing reports on his health. #fakenews

Why do we as citizens, employees, members of civic organizations, make leadership decisions we often regret? Why is our batting average too often Seattle Mariner-like?

Because we pick leaders based upon tangible qualifications that most closely match those we detail in our job postings, with far too little attention paid to the finalists’ psychological well-being. Granted, psychological well-being is hella-hard to assess in even a series of interviews, but somehow, we have to get better at it.

Let’s start with this premise, on a “Psychological Health” scale of 1-100, the most self-actualized person in the world is a 90. Put differently, everyone has “issues” and is fallible. The goal is to select leaders with the fewest inner demons so as to avoid getting hopelessly side-tracked from the group’s overarching mission. How about this for an interview question: Which of your inner demons are we likely to learn about six months from now? Maybe I should use italics when joking. But seriously, how do interviewers enter the side or back door to assess a candidate’s relative mental health and basic people skills?

My best work friend of all time took another job two and a half years ago. When the damnable university called me to talk about him, this is some of what I said, “He utterly has no ego. As a result, he doesn’t care who gets the credit for the good work that get’s done. All he cares about is that good work gets done.” His lack of ego was an indicator of genuine psychological health, the foundation of which, was equal parts a wonderful marriage and extended family, a deep spirituality, and a commitment to physical activity. Importantly, he also laughed a lot, often at himself.

Maybe the answer to the question, how do we assess job finalists’ psychological health, lies in the previous paragraph. Talk to more former co-workers in greater depth. I’m interested in other ideas you may have.

 

Muddling Through

A tough semester draws to an end. A time period marked by unusual levels of interpersonal conflict. Here’s hoping for a great resetting when the calendar flips over.

Two things helped me muddle through.

Fall marathon training was a refuge. Ironically, long, conflict-free, predawn runs were renewing.

And my first year writing seminar. Here’s what I just told them at the start of our last class session:

“Thank you. It’s been a challenging semester with the university’s financial challenges and other conflicts in other parts of my life. This class has always been a wonderful break from that. I’ve appreciated how you’ve embraced the course content and worked to improve your writing. Most of all though, I’ve drawn inspiration from the friendly and respectful way you’ve interacted with each other all semester. It gives me hope for the future. I’m going to miss this class.”

 

You Might KNOW A Couple of People

In “Why Garrison Keillor’s Fall From Grace Feels Particularly Queasy-Making” Ruth Graham writes:

“But there were always reasons to suspect that Keillor’s folksy persona wasn’t a true portrait of the man: the unseemly lawsuit against his neighbor, the messy personal life. In interviews, he often comes off as aloof and awkward. A profile last year in the New York Times ended with the radio host breezing past the reporter after a show without acknowledging her, or even seeming to recognize her. “He is certainly the strangest person I know,” the writer Roger Angell, his one-time editor, said in that piece. ‘I don’t think he’s necessarily a happy man.'”

Word of 2017. . . p-e-r-s-o-n-a.

Lesson of the year. Never say you like an actor, athlete, President, business leader, comedian, musician, religious leader, etc., because you don’t know them, just their public persona. Let’s seize this moment to distinguish between people’s true selves and their often carefully crafted personas. Do that by referencing the specific part of the public figure’s work you like, Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, Taylor Swift’s music, Bill Cosby’s Cosby Show, Russell Wilson’s athleticism, Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

The people who wear Russell Wilson jersey’s to Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd this time of year do not know Russell Wilson. It doesn’t matter that they hear he visits the Seattle Childrens’ hospital regularly and is beloved by Alaska Airlines execs, they still don’t know him. All they know is he can play quarterback.

Despite listening to her music all the time and reading about her regularly, the Youngest doesn’t know Taylor Swift. All she can know for sure is she can sing, make slick vids, and sell music. That’s the 1% of the iceberg that’s visible, the other 99% inevitably includes lots of unflattering stuff.

TSwfit is a performer. Like Garrison Keillor, Bill Cosby, Russell Wilson, the President, your member of Congress, and quite possibly, your pastor, boss, and neighbors. Everyone.

You might know a couple of people. Their hopes, dreams, inner demons. None of whom are likely public figures.

Our shock at each name added to the list of alleged sexual predators speaks volumes about our susceptibility to celebrity culture. Their abuse of power and often criminal treatment of people is the story; but our collective, predictable naivety, is the silent subtext.

 

Friday Assorted Links

1. Mea Culpa. Kinda Sorta. Or how not to apologize when added to the ever-expanding sexual harassment list.

Why, in the aggregate, is the male gender failing? Young women’s academic achievement greatly exceeds young men’s. And consider these statistics from Wikipedia:

“In the United States, men are much more likely to be incarcerated than women. More than 9 times as many men (5,037,000) as women (581,000) had ever at one time been incarcerated in a State or Federal prison at year end 2001. In 2014, more than 73% of those arrested in the US were males. Men accounted for 80.4 percent of persons arrested for violent crime . . . . In 2011, the United States Department of Justice compiled homicide statistics in the United States between 1980 and 2008. That study showed males were convicted of the vast majority of homicides in the United States, representing 90.5% of the total number of offenders.”

In the aggregate, something is seriously wrong with how young boys are or aren’t parented. Why are some personal attributes, like being kind, cooperative, caring, and nurturing, most commonly associated with females? And being tough, competitive, and independent more commonly thought of as male attributes? Yes, of course there are gender-based biological differences, but they don’t explain why young women, in the aggregate, are so much more successful in school and society. Why aren’t we talking more openly and honestly about the glaring gender gap that the sexual harassment story is one part?

2. Schools and cellphones: In elementary schools? At lunch?

“It used to be that students through fifth grade could carry cellphones only with special permission. But over the years, an increasing number of parents wanted their elementary-age children to take phones to school, often believing kids would be ­safer — walking home or in an emergency — with the device at the ready.”

And:

“. . . a survey of third-graders in five states found that 40 percent had a cellphone in 2017, twice as many as in 2013. Among the third-graders who had a phone, more than 80 percent said they brought them to school daily. . . .”

Violent crime has steadily declined, yet parents are more anxious. Why? What if parents acknowledged that cellphones will never guarantee that bad things sometimes happen to good people. And what if we redesigned our neighborhoods so that people could walk or bicycle to and from school? And made our roads and other public spaces safe enough that parents didn’t feel a need to give their elementary children cellphones? By giving elementary children cellphones, we’re throwing in the towel on safer, healthier, more secure communities.

Lastly, the article is woefully incomplete since there was no consideration of many adult educators’ own painfully obvious dependence upon their cellphones during the workday.

3. On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality.

The Humble Blog is big in the Midwest. Especially among intellectuals who will dig this essay. Shout out to Alison; Don; Karen; Bill; Dan and Laura (honorary Midwesterners).

Early Christman:

“If it is to serve as the epitome of America for Americans, and of humanity for the world, the place had better not be too distinctly anything. It has no features worth naming. It’s anywhere, and also nowhere.”

Late Christman:

“Every human is a vast set of unexpressed possibilities. And I never feel this to be truer than when I drive through the Midwest, looking at all the towns that could, on paper, have been my town, all the lives that, on paper, could have been my life. The factories are shuttered, the climate is changing, the towns are dying. My freedom so to drive is afforded, in part, by my whiteness. I know all this, and when I drive, now, and look at those towns, those lives, I try to maintain a kind of double consciousness, or double vision—the Midwest as an America not yet achieved; the Midwest as an America soaked in the same old American sins. But I cannot convince myself that the promise the place still seems to hold, the promise of flatness, of the freedom of anonymity, of being anywhere and nowhere at once, is a lie all the way through. Instead, I find myself daydreaming—there is no sky so conducive to daydreaming—of a Midwest that makes, and keeps, these promises to everybody.”

4. Why Millennials are obsessed with HGTV.

“I guess for millennials, it feels like a fantasy. We love to see the things that we can’t afford, given that we’re crammed into 300-square-foot apartments and have debt.”

5. The best indie books of 2017.

“Most writers make less than £600 a year, and the average literary title sells just 264 copies. . . . I think about one per cent of books break out. The big publishers have not helped the situation. Since the 2007-8 crash, they have retrenched in terms of what they publish, and how they go about it. I was talking to someone at a major publisher the other day and she asked a colleague about a book: “is this one of the ones we’re getting behind?” The point being, of all the thousands of books published every year, publishers only “get behind” a few. That can make the difference between a book you’ll hear about and one you never will. Of course, an author will never be told the publisher is ‘not getting behind their book’.”

Brutal odds.

6. Best new photog blog en todo el mundo.