Texting and Driving – we need more laws?

I recently read that the Governor’s Highway Safety Commission (doesn’t that sound like an important group?) is pushing for a stronger ban on vehicle driver’s cell phone use in the State of Ohio.  Given what I have read about our current law, I can see why the Commission would push for it.  And what is today’s law? If someone is under 18 years old, they can be pulled over if an officer sees them texting and driving. 18 years old and older can only be pulled over as a secondary violation (i.e they were already speeding or ran a read light, etc.). So somehow a policeman is supposed to decide (a) a person is texting and driving AND (b) they are under 18 years old. Not gonna happen. Oh by the way, talking on the cell phone (isn’t that an equal distraction?) is not banned.

First off, I totally agree that distracted driving is an issue.  I see it all the time.  Someone is driving erratically, I generally say “they are on their cell phone”.  And that is usually true.  In a perfect world, we should take away all distractions from drivers.  But that will never happen.

However, there seems to me to be a more important point to make.

More importantly, to me addressing a “driver’s texting ban” is an issue of priorities. I believe that organizations (and people) should only focus on a few, critical issues at a time.  When an organization or person tries to address too many things, nothing gets done.  Case in point, it took Ohio’s legislature three years to pass the current cell phone texting and driving law!   How hard can it be? Could this issue really require three years of time, consideration and deliberation to be put into law?  When the Legislature tries to tackle dozens of issues at once, all of them get delayed, distracted and extended.

We have some huge problems in Ohio.  Unemployment and underemployment are way too high.  Our budget is way out of balance.  Young people are leaving because the quality of life is not as good as elsewhere.  Medicare and Medicaid are budget killers.  Our school system funding is messed up.  You can probably add a couple other huge, important issues to this list.  My point is this.  Please have the Legislature focus on the (few) big issues and try to fix them.  Then we can move down the list.  For me, texting and driving is not on the top five priority list.  If the Legislature keeps trying to address every issue, no issue will get its true attention.

By the way, the “Governor” part in the “Governors’ Highway Safety Commission” has nothing to do with “Governors”!  This group is made up of the safety directors of the states.  I guess “State Safety Directors’ Highway Safety Commission” didn’t sound like such a cool group name.  Whether any State’s Governor supports this group is not important – the state safety directors just wanted to use the name.  There has to be some irony there.


My Ten Favorite Movie Quotes

Okay, I’ve been real serious with most of my posts lately, so I thought I would try something a little lighter.  Here are my favorite movie quotes – and why they mean something to me.  These are not necessarily in any order.  Probably as soon as I post this, I will think of another, but here we go.  I’d love to get your comments or favorite quotes.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, said by Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) in the movie Jaws after he sees the great white shark for the first time.  This is a quote I use all the time.  So often we underestimate what it will take to get something accomplished.  This quote says it all.

“I’m a schoolteacher. I teach English composition… in this little town called Adley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I’ve been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was a coach of the baseball team in the springtime. Back home, I tell people what I do for a living and they think well, now that figures. But over here, it’s a big, a big mystery. ” Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) in Saving Private Ryan.  To his troops, Captain Miller is a legend and a myth.  The soldiers have been trying to figure out what he was before the war because he must have been extraordinary to do what he has done in the war.  Here Captain Miller lets them know he is a simple man.  So many of our war veterans are such men – men from simple backgrounds doing extraordinary things.

“What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! “, Bluto Blutarski (John Belushi) in Animal House.  I could have picked a number of Belushi lines (“Food Fight!”) but settled on this one. He is trying to get he Men of Delta House inspired and fired up.  But because he has not gone to a lot of classes, he gets a few key facts wrong.  His inspiration is in the right place, it is just a little misinformed.

“You know, I believe we have two lives. The life we learn with and the life we live with after that, ” Iris Gaines (Glenn Close) to Roy Hobbs  (Robert Redford) from The Natural.  This movie is a story of failure in the face of opportunity and then redemption late in (sporting) life.  It is a great quote because I firmly agree we all have a chance to redeem ourselves if we are willing to try.  It won’t be easy and we may not be as great as we thought we could have been.  But by coming off the ground we are exalted.

“Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. But good luck to you Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever”, Lance Armstrong to Peter LeFleur (Vince Vaughan) in Dodge Ball.  I know, there are a lot of classic lines in Dodge Ball.  I like this one for the irony.  We all think we have faced the toughest challenges.  Then someone comes along to remind us that there are tougher challenges faced by others.

“No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try”, Yoda in Star Wars IV to Luke Skywalker.  Yoda is an interesting philosopher.  He is forcing Skywalker to rethink his way of reacting to things.  In this context Skywalker’s “try” meant “I’ll do it, fail and then at least I can say I tried”.  Yoda is telling him to get rid of the defeatist attitude.  “Try” with the intent of succeeding, not with the intent of failing and then having a justification.  How many times have we all “tried” some task while really planning on failing and then justifying it to ourselves that we “tried”?

“Watch out for that next step, it’s a doozy”, Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) to Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in the movie Groundhog Day.  I just love this movie.  It had to have a quote in my list.  Nothing profound with this one.

Thomas Wayne: “You know why they (the bats)  attacked you, don’t you? They were afraid of you. Bruce Wayne (Christain Bale): Afraid of me? Thomas: All creatures feel fear.  Bruce: Even the scary ones? Thomas: Especially the scary ones“. This is from Batman Begins.  I think this is a really cool Father/son exchange.  We are all scared of something.  A great dad helps us overcome an irrational fear.

“Never Give up, Never Surrender”, Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) in Galaxy Quest.  Another corny movie.  And this line was intended to be corny like the movie.  But I think it is a great mantra.  As a runner, research shows that repeating a phrase over and over can help us through tough times.  This is not a bad mantra to follow.

“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory… lasts forever,” Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) in The Replacements.  Just a cool quote.

So anyone have any better one?

A race to remember: 2012 US Air Force Half Marathon

I ran the 16th Annual US Air Force Half Marathon on Saturday, September 15.  My running buddy Matt Kaiser and I ran it.  It is the second year that I have run this half marathon (but my 10th half marathon overall). It turned out to be one of the most memorable running events I have ever attended.  More on that in a moment.

So how did I do?  My time was one hour fifty minutes (1:50).  This means I ran about eight minutes, 20 seconds per mile (8:20).  I finished in 402nd place out of the 5447 participants in the race.  My goal was to run at least a 1:55, but I would have preferred a 1:52 which is 8:30 per mile.  My training this summer was not as good as I would have liked it to be.  I have learned after running enough races that I needed to reset my expectations.  So the fact that I ran faster than my highest expectation is really exciting.

Since neither Matt or I had very high expectations, we took our time getting to the starting line.  We lined up in the crowds unconcerned about where we were.  In the past we would have probably worked really hard to move much closer to the start line so that we would not get caught behind slower runners.  We were so far back it took us four and a half minutes to make it to the starting line!  That added time does not count against our running time because they use computer chips to track you during the runs.  And it had an unexpected positive consequence.

Off we went dodging all of the walkers who should have been much farther back.  I knew we were too far back when we passed a group of runners expecting to run nearly ten minutes a mile. But as Matt and I talked, having so many runners to pass was a good thing because it gave us something extra to do and made us concentrate on passing the next runner ahead of us.  We easily passed many hundreds of runners in the first three miles.  Then things got REALLY interesting.

Around mile 3.5, the runners directly ahead of me turned around and started yelling that we were going the wrong way!  I believed them so I turned around immediately (thereby losing Matt for the rest of the time).  All of the faster runners did not get the message.  So I was one of the lucky ones.  Because of this mishap, I was in the top 50 of all runners in the race.

About a mile later we were on a road where the full marathon is going one direction and the half marathon is going the other.  Those of us running noticed a lot of very fast “marathon runners” in a big group.  It took us a moment to figure out that these were the really fast half marathon runners going the wrong direction.  So we started yelling to them that they were going the wrong direction.  They immediately turned around and joined us.  Most of them were incredulous when we told them our story.  But when we reached the five-mile mark of the half marathon course, they all knew they had run the wrong way.  Turns out most of them ran one and a half miles extra!  To say they were all angry is an understatement.

It turns out that someone forgot to stand at a fork in the road and tell us which way to go.  Because Matt and I decided to start so far back, we were the beneficiaries of being among the first to know that we were going the wrong way.  I only ran about one minute thirty seconds out of my way (less than 1/4 of a mile).  If I would have been where I should have been in the race, I would have run a mile or more out of my way.  So sometimes it pays to be lucky!


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption | [Laura Hillenbrand]

“Unbroken” is a biography of Louis Zamperini written by Laura Hillenbrand.  Zamperini was a World War II veteran and prisoner of war survivor.  His life prior to going to war prepared him for everything that was to come his way.  I won’t tell you more because I don’t want to give the book away.  I generally hesitate to recommend a book because we all have different tastes.  But his story is so amazing and her story telling is so outstanding that I highly recommend this book – with a caveat.

This was the most emotional book I have ever read.  I could not put the book down.  But it was a VERY hard read.  The powerful emotions of his story will affect you while you are reading.  It is rare for a book to be able to impose its emotions on the reader’s own state of mind.  But this book did.  This leads to parts of the book where you are physically and psychologically hurting along with Zamperini.  How he is able to survive is so amazing.  And the resiliency of Zamperini and his colleagues is a testament to the strength of the human mind and body when it is needed.

This book stamps Hillenbrand as one of the finest writers I have ever read.  Her descriptions of the events and people are so well written you feel them.  How she was able to gather so many details regarding a lengthy period of time leaves me in awe.  The great writer must be able to articulate their point in prose that the reader connects with instantaneously.  And the biographer must gather minute details from the past – some important and some not.  Weaving those stories into a narrative that describes your subject is an art.  I’ve read many a biography that was excellent in describing details of a person’s life and events.  But few can become a compelling narrative at the same time.

When you finish, perhaps you will have a new opinion of the Japanese of the 1940’s and of The Reverend Billy Graham.

School lunches – Government to the rescue?

This school year we have run into another set of challenges with respect to our students.  The US Federal Government is imposing strict nutritional guidelines on school lunches.  My understanding is there is a complicated formula involving calories, calories from fats, balance of protein vs. vegetables vs. fruit, etc.  Menus must be entered into a system that checks all the requirements.  If you don’t meet all of the requirements, lunches are not approved.  No approval, no Government support.

The problem I have is that so often when large, deliberative bodies are involved, the thinking gets minimized.  Who can argue with the fact that Americans are getting more obese and we need to do something about that?  Who can argue with the statement “we should try to make our school meals healthy for our children”?  Who can argue with the rationale “if we provide our children with healthy food options now we will help build in them more healthy eating habits for a lifetime”?  Of course those are all great arguments.  And they provide a very strong rationale for our government to “do something”.

Unfortunately, no one wants to take the thinking out a little farther and put some reality checks in place.  Simply by having the healthier food available for our children doesn’t mean they will eat it.  My experience is that the less tasty, lower calorie food has two unintended consequences.  First, kids either skip the meals or eat whatever parts of the meal they like (thus skipping out on the healthy parts).  The unintended consequence is that the kids don’t get enough calories at lunch.  There are all kinds of studies proving that a hungry child is one that is not ready and able to learn as well as a well-fed child.  So these government-mandated meals simply leaves us with hungry students who are not ready (or able) to learn because of their hunger.  The second unintended consequences is kids will bring snacks (i..e junk food) from home in order to make up for the lack of taste and lack of calories they need.  So they end up eating empty calories to make up for their hunger.  Not quite what the government had in mind was it?

Furthermore, if the Government had really thought it out, do 180 lunches a year really overcome all of the other times our children are not eating well?  I know it does not.  Does anyone really believe that by serving “healthy” meals at lunch while at school we are somehow “building heathy eating habits for a lifetime”?  C’mon.  Theory sounds good but a little probing makes it nonsense.

I don’t intend this to be a “bash the government” post.  It seems to me the Government does a great job at the big things – building a strong defense, maintaining our infrastructure, and providing essential safeguards (through agencies like the FDA, SEC, etc.).  It is when the government tries to micro-manage human behavior that everything goes awry (for example, setting speed limits for interstates.  Who really follows the speed limits?).

I don’t have a solution.  If we only had a government that focused on the big things.

Neil Armstrong – will there ever be another?

Reading about Neil Armstrong dying made me think about him and his public persona.  Will there ever be another person like him?  Obviously, no one will ever be the “first to step on the moon”.  So in that way, he will always be unique.  But more importantly, he studious, steadfastly maintained his privacy.  He rarely gave interviews.  He did not show up at “events”.  He never tried to profit from his notoriety.

I read recently that one of the Navy Seals who participated in the Osama bin Laden raid is writing a book.  In the past, those people have kept themselves private for a number of reasons.  Fear that terrorists would come after them or their family.  The “I was just doing my duty” logic.  The code of conduct that says military missions of this sort are kept secret.  But he is not holding to those conventions.  I am not sure why.  But I think that it reflects our current society – “15 minutes of fame”, “profit off the story before someone else does”, “no one can hide the story”.

Would Armstrong’s desire to keep private work in today’s “TMZ”, Inside Access”, etc. culture?  I doubt it.  His divorce after 38 years of marriage would have been dissected.  His sons, as they grew up, would have been watched every step (just ask the British Royal Family what this is like).  I am sure his students at the University of Cincinnati would have been grilled for inside stories.  And who in his life would have posted a picture, taken a video or tweeted something about him?

Today’s cult of the celebrity puts demands on anyone who is “famous” .  They “have ” to be a part of our life whether they want to or not.  So Neil Armstrong was very fortunate in many ways.  He got to live a dream – first man on the moon.  But more importantly, he got to live HIS dream – a life of privacy,  Quite a lucky man.

But that leaves a question for all of us.  Why don’t we allow today’s celebrities to live their life in solitude if this wish?

My recent experience with a barrier/fork in the road

As a follow-up to my last post on barriers and forks in the road, I faced one of those decisions recently.  This decision will have a major impact on my long-term future.  And, like so many other situations, I did not see this one coming.

I have a provisional license in the state of Ohio to teach for three more years.  In order to teach beyond that, I must get my teaching certificate.  The only viable option to get that certificate is to take six (6) classes at one of four Universities in Ohio – Bowling Green, Ohio State, Rio Grande or Wright State (WSU).  WSU is 30 minutes from home.  All of the rest of them are a minimum of two hours away.  I am not going to move to take those classes.  On-line classes are not an option.  So WSU is the only viable option.

This summer I attended the first class (of the six I need to take) –  10 days, all day long. I completed that class with an”A” (97%).  However, the teacher of the class and I had a MAJOR personality clash.  The clash was so bad that she told me to “pursue my education elsewhere”.  As I explained above, that is just not viable for me (and she knew that).  Since she is the teacher for the remaining five classes, I was not welcome back.  I won’t get into the specifics of the clash.  I believe that I am relatively easy to get along with.  Perhaps we all feel that way about ourselves

So, I am at a decision point.  It was clear to me that this was a barrier, this was not a fork.  After much consultation with others and personal reflection, I decided that the barrier is not worth breaking through.  So I am abandoning my pursuit of a teaching certificate (isn’t it amazing the impact one person can sometimes have on our lives?).  I know in my heart that this barrier was put in front of me for some reason that is not clear today but will become clear in the future.  That is where the fork in the road comes into play.  I know after this school year that my professional life will take a turn in one direction or another.  I just cannot see far enough to know the right direction today.

What does it all mean?  I teach another year for sure.  My principal and superintendent – who have been tremendously supportive, respectful and affirming of me – and I will sit down at the end of the school year and figure out where we go.  We’ll peer as far down those two forks as we are able.   Rose and I will take a peek together.  Then I’ll have another decision to make.  I’ll still be eligible to teach for another two years after this year.  Something will work out.  Of that, I am confident.  No one likes uncertainty, but I am okay with that for now.

I’ve experienced so many of these job-related situations over the past few years that I feel like I have been prepared for this case.  Luckily this one does not impact my long-term financial situation or impact my family relationships.  So I am doing fine.  My focus is now on school 100% of the time.  That is a great thing because I want to do everything I can for my students.