National Greatness Reconsidered

Team USA is doing poorly in the World Cup of Basketball which is also serving as a 2020 Olympic qualifier. Even though several top NBA players chose not to play on Team USA, many US fans still assumed the team would prevail. Now they are disappointed.

The new international basketball reality, the world has closed the considerable gap the US historically had in basketball dominance, makes me wonder why the men’s US National Soccer Team is still a third or fourth tier program?

Much more importantly, why do we let our country’s athletic performances influence what we think about ourselves? At all.

It’s odd isn’t it, the way we count Olympic medals and feel a little better about ourselves, at least temporarily, when our countrymen/women excel in international competition.

Like most places, in the US we watch our teams closely and cheer them passionately, while we simultaneously incarcerate more people, childhood poverty and homelessness increases, gun violence persists, environmental regulations are undone, and loneliness and mental health challenges mount.

If we have to compete, why don’t we change the parameters? How about a World Cup of Prison Reform. The country that reduces their prison population and recidivism the most wins. The World Cup of Childhood Poverty and Homelessness. The country that moves the largest percentage of children out of poverty and reduces their homelessness population the most wins. The World Cup of Public Safety. The World Cup of Environmental Protection. The World Cup of Social Infrastructure.

Granted, those competitions won’t translate to television and will take a lot longer, but unlike the athletic ones, the outcomes will improve the long-term quality of our lives.

Wednesday Assorted Links

1. Exactly how did the Egyptians build the Pyramid of Khufu and its two great successors on the Giza Plateau? Super detailed which my engineer friends will appreciate. And no, it wasn’t space aliens, supernatural powers, or super-advanced predecessor civilizations. Makes me want to visit.

2. The big lie: What it’s like to cycle illegally as a woman in Iran. The things we, meaning cyclists in the west, take for granted.

“The boy cyclists used to tell me, ‘you have good co-ordination’. I owe this skill to the police — I learnt it when they were chasing me in the car and I used my bike riding to escape.

But there were times when they caught me. It was as though they had caught a thief. They would push me into their car, shouting, with several police women guarding me till we got to a police station. One time they even threw my bike in the street — even then I stuck to my bike and wouldn’t let go of it.”

3. I had the pleasure of serving with Sidney Rittenberg on my university’s Chinese Studies Program committee. Wicked bright, funny, and personable. Who has had as long and interesting a life? The one thing I never understood about him. How two lengthy imprisonments seemingly softened his stance on China, capitalism, and US-China business relations.

4. ‘You Failed Us’: Teen author asks 40 students of color to share their experiences at Seattle schools. The disadvantage of being one of the only students of color in a classroom?

“It’s more than having someone to laugh with during class,” Savage writes. “It’s the advantage of having someone to ask for help on homework, to study for the test with, to stand up for you, to confront the racist teacher with.”

“It’s Just A Little Town Of People Trying To Be Good.”

Bon Iver’s creativity, as detailed in this article and video, 5 Years, 28 People, 1 Song: No One Writes Quite Like Bon Iver, is a marvel.

Listening to extremely creative people talk about their process is one of my favorite things en todo el mundo. I just find it imminently fascinating. Never more so than when watching that New York Times vid.

It’s hard to fathom that twenty-eight people spent five years making one song. Equal parts creativity and persistence.

Inspiring stuff.

Here’s the finished product.

The Deleterious Health Effects of Sedentary Work Cultures

One aspect of my privilege is my education which has enabled me to make a living without sacrificing my body. Roofers, welders, plumbers, farmers, house painters, construction workers, tree cutters, often aren’t as fortunate.

But I’ve noticed a pattern even among my fellow white collar egghead professors. A majority routinely sacrifice their health for the sake of their work because of a deep-seated intellectual bias that prioritizes the mind at the expense of the body. 

Simply put, most of my colleagues have been sedentary for decades. On top of that, generous people take turns providing unhealthy office snacks*. Most professors don’t make time to walk, hike, run, play tennis, swim, cycle, or lift weights because there’s always another lecture to plan, or syllabus or grant to write, or set of papers to mark, or conference presentation to prepare, or faculty workshop to attend.

I like my work and my university, but not nearly enough to sacrifice my health for it. One colleague of mine retired in May and died in July. I didn’t know him so I don’t even want to pretend his lifestyle played any part, but I fear too many of my colleagues will not get to enjoy as many post work years if they do not prioritize their health more than is the norm.

Today marks the end of the world’s longest academic sabbatical, mine. I normally work summers, but I took the summers of 18 and 19 off, the book-ends to my 2018-2019 academic year sabbatical. 15 months, huzzah! Someone call the Guinness Book of World Records**. I won’t be telling any of my colleagues what I’m going to tell you in the next paragraph because the sedentary nature of faculty life is so pervasive my athletic self lives deep in the closet***.

Besides the traditional, publishing a couple of articles, reading a bunch, and updating my syllabi, I also turned the knob up a bit on my regular swimming, cycling, and running volume. Por exemplar, I joined a Masters swim team and so far this year have already swam about the same distance as last calendar year. And SO WHAT if I did stretch and chill in the jacuzzi after some practices! Also, I’m on pace to cycle 5,000 miles this year and maintain my 1,000 mile a year running streak. I was fit when I began my record breaking sabbatical, today I’m a little more fit****.

Am I overcompensating? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I’m under no illusions that my active lifestyle will guarantee any kind of post-work longevity because life is fragile. That driver on their cell phone could wipe me out on tomorrow’s ride.

But as long as I work as an egghead professor, I will dare to be different by making time to swim, cycle, and run. In particular, I will not sacrifice the quality of my life to the pervasive work culture of which I’m apart. Please, just don’t out me to any of my colleagues.

*Decent chance I have my first donut in a long time today. #glazed

**Could an educator-reader please tell me if teaching is like riding a bike, I’m afraid I may have forgotten how. Any tips?

***Except for one colleague-friend who follows my workouts on Strava. I should probably get him to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

****No, I haven’t just opted to not write about racing triathlons, I have in fact sold my time trial bike and stopped competing for reasons I’m not entirely sure. As I age, given the attrition of my peers, and my consistent training, I would do quite well. But when I envision best case scenarios, like winning races, I’m still not sufficiently motivated to toe the line. Is there a sports psychologist in the house?

bike

 

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Silent book clubs? Introverts of the world unite.

“Locations dot the globe, with congregants meeting monthly in Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and many other cities and countries.”

2. Push for Ethnic Studies in Schools Face a Dilemma: Whose Stories to Tell?

“Many educators and policymakers across the country have been pushing for instructional materials that confront race in America, citing instances of racist violence and the divisive and inflammatory language ricocheting in politics, on social media and beyond. California is one of the first three states, alongside Oregon and Vermont, to forge ahead this year with creating K-12 materials in ethnic studies.

The debate in California highlights some of the difficult questions that educators will face: Which groups, and whose histories, should be included? Is the purpose to create young, left-leaning activists, or to give students access to a broad range of opinions? And are teachers, the majority of whom are white, ready to teach a discipline that is unfamiliar to many of them?”

My “Multicultural Perspectives in the Classroom” students will be required to resolve this dilemma at the semester’s end.*

3. We Have Ruined Childhood.  Related, School lunchtime too short Washington State’s Auditor says. My “Schools and Society” students will read and discuss this one.*

“. . . childhood, one long unpaid internship meant to secure a spot in a dwindling middle class.”

4. Tehran Orders Crackdown as Wealthy Use Ambulances to Beat Traffic. The growing divide between rich and poor is not limited to the (dis)United States.

“When the phone rang at a private ambulance center in Tehran, a famous Iranian soccer player was on the line. The operator recognized him instantly and expressed sympathy for the presumed medical emergency in his family.

The soccer star laughed and said nobody was sick. He was requesting a reservation for an ambulance for a day to run errands around the city. He wanted to avoid the choking traffic that can turn a 10-minute ride into a two-hour trek. The money he was offering was equivalent to a teacher’s monthly salary.”

5. Woman Wins 50K Ultra Outright, Trophy Snafu for Male Winner Follows. 

“. . . there was only a trophy for the overall winner, which was predicted to be a man.”

Oops.

6. The highest paid player per second in NBA history. What a redemption story.

* sadly, the sabbatical ends