Timeliness of Information

I’ve come to realize this weekend how much I have become like the rest of society in my demand for timeliness of information.  I did not think I was that bad, but I am.  Let me explain.

One of the main things we are taught as teachers is that students are now pre-conditioned for instant access.  If they want to know something, they get their phones out and check the Internet.  If the Internet is slow or their phone batteries are dead, they go crazy. The games they play provide instant feedback.  Twitter, Facebook, text messages all thrive on up-to-the minute updates.  Information is now at our hands immediately.

NBC has the Olympic TV rights this year. Because of the time difference between London and the here, NBC is tape-delaying showing events. That used to work in the old days. But in today’s world, information is instantaneous. Every Olympic result is known as soon as it is over. Multiple Internet sites post stories. Twitter provides results. It is impossible to not know what happened unless you do not go onto the Internet. So NBC cannot really believe that there is any suspense to the results.  But they show stuff 6-8 hours after it happened acting as if none of us know.  I find this REALLY frustrating.  In essence, NBC is using a model that was great in the old days but is not viable anymore.  I will be very interested to see the outcome of this clear mismatch between customer’s expectations and a company’s profit motive.  If anything has taught us, not meeting customer’s expectations is not sustainable.  Your move, NBC.

In the “great minds think alike category”, my son Nate wrote on the same subject in his blog – http://nathanwaggens.blogspot.com/

As an aside which is totally unrelated to this blog post – I ran in a 5 mile race at Brookville, Ohio.  Before the race, a person was playing music to get the runners fired up for the race.  The race started in a public park.  This person played music throughout the event and was still playing music after the race was over.  So they were the designated DJ for the race.  While we were warming up, one of the songs they played was Jimmy Buffett’s “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw”.  Now I like Jimmy Buffett.  I am not a prude.  But is it really appropriate to play that song in a public, family-gathering place?  What was he thinking?

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Crime and Punishment

This is not going to be a review of the novel by Dostoyevsky.   Sorry to disappoint you. Ha 

The first thing to think about is the recent shooting at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.  Most everyone knows the basic facts of the case. The crime is pretty clear – 12 people dead, numerous people injured.    It seems clear that the suspected killer did the deed since he was caught at the theatre and confessed.  It is also known that he has been acquiring the items required to carry out the murders for a number of months.  This would indicate some premeditation and some planning.  But as we all know, often cases like this drag out for a long time.  Oftentimes months or years go by as we wait for the case to go to court.  Lawyers have to be found for the defendant.  Psychiatric evaluations must occur.  Motions are filed.    We know that the defendant will almost surely plead an insanity defense.  We all get frustrated that the justice system takes so long to decide what seems to be a pretty clear case (“why does it take so long?”).

Contrast that with the recent Penn State.  Jerry Sandusky went to trial relatively quickly and was convicted. The sanctions levied on Penn State by the NCAA took almost no time.  The Freeh commission was announced to begin on November 21, 2011.  The report came out July 12, 2012.  Sanctions were announced July 23.  Penn State “agreed” to the sanctions.   In this case, justice moved very quickly.  But there was no “trial” of Penn State.  Penn State did not get to face its accusers.  The evidence is in one independent report, but it does not follow our judicial rules of evidence.  The judge, prosecutor and jury  in this case is the NCAA.   The NCAA also has other ways to sanction Penn State if Penn State did not cooperate (lesser bowl games or none, at large bids to NCAA tournaments, etc.).  So it was speedy and decisive.  Are you comfortable with that justice system?

My point is not to argue the “right” or “wrong”, the guilty or the innocent.  Here we have justice dispensed in two very different ways.  One is swift, the other is not.  We traded swiftness for due process.

The juxtaposition of these two cases got me thinking.  Am I comfortable with either or both?

Comparison is the thief of joy

One of the great things about writing a blog on any subject that comes up is the freedom it gives me to write about different subjects.

I recently encountered a blog at Runner’s World that caught my attention.  What I liked was the quote – “Comparison is the thief of joy”.  I thought that was a really interesting way to think of things.  Think about how we compare ourselves all of the time to someone or something. You can probably relate to: I am not as good looking as him/her.  She/he has such a nice house/car/whatever.  I wish I could run faster like I did a few years ago.  I lost 3 pounds but she lost 5 pounds.   I wish I was back in the time when . . .  You get the idea.

One could argue that it is not bad to compare yourself or your circumstances to something else. It is a natural human thing to do.  Comparisons allow us to strive for something better.   It doesn’t hurt to be your own best critic sometimes. We all get caught up in moving forward in life without reflection. We all can improve in some parts of our lives for the better.   In fact, sometimes making a comparison helps us realize how good we have it.  True enough.

But I think we would all agree that when we are making comparisons, they are generally done to reflect on our inadequacies.   On top of that, we always compare to someone’s best qualities or what we imagine is someone’s situation.  We look at someone driving a nice Lexus or Mercedes and wish we had one, not knowing that person’s financial situation is really bad.  Or we wish we had someone’s high-paying job without knowing the toll it takes on their family life.  This constant focus – oftentimes done unconsciously – wears on us. Why do we allow that to happen? Each of us is whatever we are.

Celebrities are an example of this “compare to someone’s best” phenomenon.  Take Kim Kardashian or Tom Cruise.  Most people would like to be as rich as her/him.  And I suspect many of us would like to have their good looks.  Those are “bad compares” for most of us.  But let’s look at it another way.  Who would want their marriages?  Who would want to have every step of every day recorded for all to see?  We almost never make those comparisons, yet they are equally valid.

But when we allow comparisons to take away our enjoyment, we are hurting ourselves.  It is just as easy to focus on the positive part of our lives.  Why not do that?  If you find yourself allowing comparisons to “steal your joy”, pause for a moment.  Are you really being fair?  Are you stealing some joy?  Is it really necessary?  My challenge to all of you is to look for the positive things in life.  Realize how lucky you really are in so many aspects of life.  And while the “you” you see is not perfect, this “you” is pretty darn good!

P.S. Interestingly enough, when I did some investigating, I found out Theodore Roosevelt is the person who this quote is attributed to.  TR is one of the most interesting people of all time in my opinion.

You don’t need to read the original Runner’s World blog but here it is http://milemarkers.runnersworld.com/2012/07/the-thief/

Focus on the Positive

Do you ever find yourself so focused on some event/situation that it keeps you from enjoying whatever you should be enjoying?

I’ve had that experience lately.  I have to take two weeks of class at Wright State this summer.  The classes run Monday through Friday from 8:00-5:00.  Basically I am “losing” two weeks of my summer vacation.  But I have to take the classes as part of my state-mandated teacher certification.  I am not anxious to take these classes.  I’ve convinced myself that they will not be the best use of my time.  I’d rather be running.  I’d rather be working on lesson plans for school.  I can find a bunch of other things to do.  But I don’t have a choice.  I find myself groaning about the unfairness of it all.  Whenever I look ahead at the calendar, I moan because of the commitment.  Let’s all feel sorry for me.

So why am I allowing this to ruin my month?

I’ve decided – with the help of this soul-baring post – that I am not going to do this groaning and moaning anymore.  I am going to try to get whatever I can out of the class.  I know being around other teachers will generate some few good ideas.  Maybe I’ll pass a couple of my ideas by them to see if the others can improve on my plans.  But more importantly, I am not going to focus on the “lost” time.  It is a reality.  I must go to the classes.  Therefore, I am NOT going to focus anymore time or effort on self-pity.  Okay, so I won’t have this two-week time to do exactly what I want to do.  But I still have a bunch of other days to get done what I want to do.   Once I stop focusing on the negative, I’ll give myself time back.

I feel better already.

Emerald Isle, NC . . . RIP?

Another week enjoying the sun, the sand, the water and family at Emerald Isle, North Carolina.  I first came here just before graduating with my masters from Duke all those years ago (I know, that was so long ago it was before cell phones were invented!!!).  And we’ve come back as a family almost every year since.  But with everybody getting older and having many responsibilities, this may be the last year, who knows? 

When we first started coming, it truly was a vacation for Rose.  Courtney was the first grandchild/niece in the family.  And since my whole family came, guess who got all of the attention?  Of course, Courtney.  All Rose had to do was put on sun screen, get out her chair and read her book.  Her only problem after vacation was weaning Courtney off all the attention she was getting accustomed to.  When Stephen came along two years later, the situation was unchanged.  Multiple people to take care of the kids.  In fact as the kids got a little older people who were near us on the beach would ask “who is the mother?” because it seemed Rose never had to spend a moment with the kids.

As the kids got older, we would all get in the water , learning how to ride the waves – and of course competing on who rode the waves the longest. Steve would continually creep up behind people and dunk them.  Nate would provide commentary on whatever activity we were doing.  Luke was best at skipping shells along the water.  Everyone had one night they were responsible for cooking dinner and cleaning up the dishes.  Other than that, you had dinner made for you (and usually lunch was made too with Grandma around).  Each year became an opportunity to explore something new or to build an even bigger sand castle than last year.

The beach also provided a great opportunity for the kids to hang out with some of their cousins.  When cousin Sasha came along, two new “traditions” began.  First, Sasha was the champion of accidentally swallowing salt water.  Whenever we were out swimming or throwing the ball around in the water, Sasha would end up swallowing a bunch of it.  Second, he would always have to go to the bathroom after we started our post-dinner walk along the beach.  We could always count on Sasha to make a mad dash back to the house to get to the bathroom.  Cousin Will is the best at finding the neatest sea shells.  He has infinite patience and has the creative eye to see the coolest shells.  Nick is the best at building stadiums in the sand.  And Nick is always ready to toss a ball of any kind while we hang out in the water.

This year only Courtney and Will were able to come.  So we are down from 15 family members crammed into a house to only 5 people. Without all the kids, it is not nearly as much fun.   Perhaps the tradition has run its course.  But we’ve had a lot of fun.

Fireworks over Statue of Liberty

How cool would it be to see 4th of July fireworks over the Statue of Liberty in New York City?  Rose had a great idea.  We needed to take some items to Courtney, so why not go see the fireworks?  I thought that was a great idea – and those of you that know Rose know she can be very convincing when she says she would “like” to do something. 

So we packed up the van on July 4 and headed to NYC.  Once we go there, we delivered stuff to Courtney.  Then we hopped on the subway and headed down to Manhattan.  Surprisingly, it was not too crowded down by the East River overlooking the Statue.  Perhaps it was the 90+ degree weather.  We were excited to get a nice seat close to the water.  We could see a few of the fireworks in New Jersey.

After sitting around for about 20 minutes, it was getting late and nothing seemed to be happening.  Well, there was a good reason nothing seemed to be happening.  They do not have 4th of July fireworks over the Statue of Liberty!  The fireworks are on the East River.  I don’t know when they have fireworks over the Statue of Liberty, but not this night.  None of us bothered to check when and where the fireworks would occur.  We just figured they would happen.

Thus we did not get to see any fireworks.  Oh well.  Now I have one more story to tease Rose about.  Ha!

Objectives/Resolutions – an update

Wow, it is already half way through the year.  Where did the time go?  I figured this would be a good time to reflect on how I am doing on my personal goals for this year.

Goal #1 – Run three half-marathons.  I have already completed one half-marathon in Fredericksburg, Va.  That run went well which means I am motivated to keep going.  I am signed up to run the Air Force half marathon in September here in Dayton with my buddy Matt Kaiser.  I plan on either running the State-to-State half marathon in Oxford, Ohio (Paul and Jeff – how about it?) or the River Corridor Classic in Dayton. It looks like I am on track to achieve this goal.  Unfortunately, my running has been sporadic this year.  I seem to be finding excuses – or is it just a better realization of what my body can handle?  I have not run nearly as many miles as in the past years.

Goal #2 – Publish 100 blog posts.  This is around #46 for this year, so I am a little bit behind.  But I am pleased with how I am doing.  I have a bunch of ideas and just need to find the time to write. I have a pretty good number of people reading my blog regularly which makes me happy.  Wish I was getting more comments, but that is out of my control.  And I feel like I haven’t just created a blog without a good reason to (except perhaps the next one I post!).

Goal #3 – Spend five minutes a day in self-reflection.  I have done okay on this one.  I find that when I go to bed is the best time to do this reflection.  I do  my best to relax and do a little thinking.  I try not to force my mind to think about anything in particular – just let it go.  I’ve also tried to incorporate some relaxed breathing to help myself.  I’ve convinced myself that it is not important that I do any one thing in particular.  The key is to do the self-reflection.

I feel pretty good about how I am doing so far.  I hope you all are having some success with your objectives.

So I am not doing too badly.  But I think most people who know me say I am a goal-oriented person who is pretty disciplined.  But putting the goals in writing is a good thing.