Monday, September 20, 2004

Stupid Stuff in Sports

The incident in Oakland, Part I: Professional athletes are people too, despite the pedestals we like to raise them to. That means that sometimes they are going to lose their tempers and do stupid, thoughtless things. And we fans of the games should hold them accountable. We are often upset that athletes (even supposed amateurs) are so important that they are often judged by different standards and many times get away with things that would ruin the careers of other people. So of course, most of us (even Rangers fans like me) are going to support the suspension of Frankie Francisco.

No matter what was said and done, he and his teammates have to keep their cool as best as they can. I cannot see what justifies violence at all, so the chair probably should not have been in his hands let alone set aloft toward the stands unless he thought he was in some danger.

That said, I believe that the standard we expect to judge Francisco by has not been applied to the people in the stands in Oakland, a place that already has a history of problems. As I said, now and then one player loses his cool. But something must have happened to get most of the team out there sparring verbally with these fans. Players are used to heckling and even have to endure verbal abuse that would get the abuser fired at work. But to my knowledge there hasn't even been an investigation into what these fans had been doing. This fact points to one of the many symptoms of our sick society. We cannot look inward to find what in us needs correction. We just go along justifying our actions, pointing fingers at anyone who disagrees.

The security was nonexistent. The Oakland organization spent so much time decrying Francisco's behavior (which, I repeat, is deplorable and inexcusable) that they did not expend an ounce of energy to find out what is going on in their stadium that helps bring such incidents about. As John Kruk wrote, "Let's see what happens when 30,000 people come to your job and shout obscenities about the private details of your life."

When this sort of thing happens again, don't be surprised. And don't be surprised when some of these idiots aren't bragging to their friends and on radio talk shows about how fun it is to rile opposing players.

The incident in Oakland, Part II: The lawyer for the woman struck during the incident reportedly likened what happened to the events at the Abu Ghraib prison. "It comes from the top," he said. This guy has to be kidding. First of all, he and the Bueno's can't honestly think that nothing harmful was said to provoke Francisco and Brocail (see Part I above). But they certainly are maintaining that stance. Second, while it is possible to blame the entire organization for hiring someone with a quick temper, I can't see how the Rangers are completely responsible for his actions. This lawyer is just trying to get attention.

And I think I'm going to pull what's left of my hair out if I hear the Buenos again on television talking about how they feared for their lives. Right. Jennifer Bueno's remarks were a mirror image of her husband. I can't help but wonder what else their lawyer coached them to say.

I won't say the situation wasn't scary. I wasn't there. I'm sure that it was. But if they were really afraid for their lives, why weren't they doing what people who are scared do? Did they run? Did they yell for help? Did they decide they had to defend themselves against impossible odds? (Of course the numbers were on the side of the fans, but that doesn't seem to get brought up.) No. These people stayed there, perhaps to continue jeering and being "ugly," as my grandmother would say.

On a slightly different note, one article pointed out that Craig Bueno coaches football and wrestling and has three sons. Is he so proud of his behavior at A's games that he would want his sons to act accordingly? He claims his comments are relatively harmless, but if he would let his sons do similar things, I wonder about him. I remember coaches taking our teams to games. Does he take his athletes to A's games (he is a season ticket holder)? If so, does he encourage such behavior?

Keyshawn, shut your damn mouth: Keyshawn Johnson may well have cost the Cowboys a touchdown today, and since the game was close, that touchdown might well have meant the game. After a Cleveland player was called for a late hit, he got himself called for unsportsmanlike conduct, negating the penalty which would have given Dallas a first down. Instead the Cowboys settled for a field goal. Off the field, I couldn't tell if he was arguing with Parcells or just trying to explain himself. Either way, it seemed as if the coach told him to shut up.

Good idea. Keyshawn, if you want others to think you are a team player, then DO shut up. You had a good game otherwise. You are good enough to let your play do the talking. The smartest thing you did was knock that ball down at the end of the game and not try to intercept it. That surprised me. Please keep surprising me.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The weekend

Listening to Jan Garbarek. Had on the The Art of Sound before, listening to a bit of a Mel Torme tribute, but they've left. Have been in a Keith Jarrett mood for a few days.

Friday we took the kids to the Dallas Children's Theater performance of Coyote Tales. The plot seemed a bit uneven for my tastes, but the kids enjoyed it and were thrilled when they got to meet the actors and get autographs. We had a great time.

Saturday was for getting some work done around the house. Mowed the backyard and when I got in the car to get more gas for the mower, found that the battery was dead. We had brought home several of Christina's paintings the night before and apparently had not closed the back hatch very well, leaving a light on to drain what little juice the poor van had left.

Also watched the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's wonderful win over Michigan. That was wonderful. Almost made me feel guilty for taking a nap. Almost.

Sunday, Tonya's parents came over and gave us a jump start, and we made it to church for the first time in a few weeks. This was nice. Mother Virginia preached a fine sermon on Christ's parables of the lost sheep and lost coin. We began an interesting series in Sunday School about the historical background of the Episcopal Church. Though I know some of this, I was thrilled to learn more.

Later, Bryan came over and helped me watch the Cowboys lose. Then we went in the backyard and played soccer with the kids. Angela came over and had dinner with us, so the weekend ended quite nicely.

That looks like about it. Didn't have much to grade, so I did some planning. Did some reading, and no writing except a haiku on Saturday when I was upset about the car.

Here's hoping the week is productive.

Peace to all who read here.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Reading, Distractions, and Multitasking

The dang essay on reading has stalled. Wrote 500 decent words the other night, but now I seem to be thinking of stuff to write when I'm not near the computer or paper, and when I am, I find myself writing in too many directions. When I'm not so tired, I need to get just as much as I can out and plan to cut mightily. That is, I should practice what I teach.

Did run into this interesting quote yesterday from Pitkin's The Art of Rapid Reading: "One of the most useless and annoying practices is to attempt reading serious material while the mind is fixed on some other object. Millions of hours have been wasted in this futile endeavor. One man in a thousand can turn his undivided attention from one subject to another without effort. But the normal human being cannot shut the door on whatever is strongly interesting him at the moment and plunge into a book dealing with some totally different interest. Serious reading demands a whole mind. Rather than undertake it with half a mind, you might better not read at all. The ancient rule holds true here, 'One thing at a time, and do that well'" (55).

Okay, I'm not so sure about the "not reading at all bit," but this passage has given me something to think about. My students have so much competing for their attention by the time they reach my classroom, and most have conditioned themselves to believe that reading is not essential and not worth their trouble. Further, there are so many distractions in our lives. I can remember reading in my room at home or in my dorm room, and so caught up in the material (even stuff that at first seemed dull) that I didn't notice a tape had ended or that the sun had gone down. Now we are taught to multitask and it seems that little gets accomplished of the needed work. Reading is a solitary endeavor, one that we not only do when no human is around (or at least none are distracting us), but also we need to do with with minimal stuff going on.

I learned early on that during my morning reading/journal writing time, if I turn on my computer (even if I meant only to use it to play music), then I too often find myself checking emails, remembering some small task that I need to do, and looking for information I will need for some later project. These other tasks are important, but because I get distracted by them, I end up not doing this task that is important for my spiritual and mental health. The same thing can easily happen as the day goes by when my reading is for work.

Now I try to avoid music during my quiet times and during my reading of the day. If I find myself distracted by my thoughts, I will try to stretch or take some notes on the reading to force my mind to focus. If I get sleepy (my quiet times are in the morning, my best reading time), then I put on something that is light enough to keep me pepped up, but soft enough to not get me dancing around the room.

Speaking of which, I was listening the The Art of Sound at
KETR, but since that went off at eleven (an hour earlier than the schedule says), I've been listening to the excellent guitar work of the incomparable Joe Pass on his Simplicity album. I have it on tape, but wish I could get it on disc. I think there is a two disc set with this and another lp. My tape does say who the other players are and I need to find out who did the organ work. Nice. Anyway this is a good piece of music for reading. Smooth and swinging, but not too loud.

I think the next post on reading should be about developing the habit of reading each day. But for now, I must get out of here and do some real work.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Sunflowers. Listening to a shuffling of Fusion songs. Working on a couple of tunes from Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Since I moved into my new house, I have been working on a poem/meditation loosely titled, "Postcards of Sunflowers." Most parts are short pieces, kind of meditations, kind of observations, much like my poem "Making Rounds," only a little freer with the verse. However, yesterday, I wrote the following part. Perhaps it stands on its own. I'm not sure why I am posting it here, but I feel compelled to do so.
I took a walk and heard
the sunflowers arguing about
Hurricane Francis. Some leaned
toward the leafless and said
it had come too soon. A few
bowed their strengthening stalks
and exclaimed that it had come
on time. A couple nodded toward
the healthy and declared the rain
had come too soon. The storm
off in Florida, I kept walking.

Only one sunflower had the guts
to tell me, as I left, “We
are only weeds. Why does it matter?”

Friday, I had an experience at Walmart that, unfortunately, is not unlike most times I have to go there. Some guy name John or Johnny was talking on his cell phone as he was doing his job of putting items back on the shelf. His basket had a sign telling people to refrain from putting stuff in. This guy was called over the "help" me find an item after the kid in the meat market couldn't help me. John walked me down several aisles (most of which I had already been down) before admitting he didn't know what the hell he was doing. Then he got a third guy who at least was honest about what he knew and didn't know. I'd love to say, "Avoid the Walmart in Rockwall." But this sort of crap happens almost every time I enter a Walmart no matter where it is.

Oh well, there is obviously more to say, but I have stuff to do.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Monday night, almost Tuesday morning. I just watched The Riverman on A&E. It was pretty scary, and in ways I'm sure many people won't get. Oh well.

Saturday was the big retirement party for my brother John. My family had a great time. We played volleyball (my team losing 2 of 3) and a hysterical game of Horse, which Brett won. Bryan and I beat John and Donnie in basketball, but I don't think talent was least not on my part. (Bets were taken on who would end up in the pool during the game, and though no one officially fell in, I was the odds on favorite.) There was a ceremonial burning of the CG uniform. There was much food and laughter. My ankle and neck hurt a bunch, but it always does. I got to add some pain from pulled groins and the nagging voice that sounds like my mother and says, "You are not young anymore." Some of the pictures are here. (Thanks Kaye for not posting the most embarrassing ones.)

I was much happy spending this time with the family. Finally got to see Jen and Donnie's most gorgeous baby, my nephew Blake. See the pics, adore the child! Was able to chat with my grandfather and visit with Aunt Ellen and laugh with cousins and brothers and sisters. That is minus Steve. His absence was noted with many profound exclamations. Seriously dude, come see us some time!

John and Kaye are wonderful hosts, as are Jen and Donnie. I hope we can live up to the task come Thanksgiving. Anyway, thanks guys for a terrific day!

I am very proud of my brother's service to his country. It is plenty that he devoted so much of his life to his work in the Coast Guard, but he also is a real family man, not like on television, but I've met few men whose love of his wife and children is more obvious. He also has a great sense of humor and though we disagree on many important ideas and issues, he is worth arguing with. I also admire that he wants to work, that he recognizes the need for a man to be of use.

So Sunday, I didn't go to church, and I feel much guilty for it. Our family is still trying to get ourselves used to the idea of getting up and driving to McKinney for services (and Sunday school soon). I know there is a fine congregation in Rockwall, but St. Peter's has meant a great deal to us. I'm not sure yet that it is time for us to leave.

Did some catching up today on school stuff. For once, I won't feel guilty that I took a bunch of stuff home only to ignore it all weekend and rush through it. I conclude, therefore, that all weekends should be three days long. Of course, I didn't mow the yard, but I'm planning to blame that on Hurricane Francis.

Read the first story in Block's Sometimes You Get The Bear, titled "By Dawn's Early Light." It features his character Matt Scudder. I liked it okay. I've decided I probably should save reading like this for the afternoon/evening and keep the heavier stuff to morning when my mind is better suited for it. Thus I seem to be back to trying to read several books at once. Have relegated The Art of Rapid Reading to bathroom time, which sounds bad, but I'm at a point in the book where its age is showing and I'm perhaps a bit less interested, though many fascinating tidbits still come out. As for Aristotle, I'm plowing through, getting some of it.

Also, since I need to be in my office by 6:30, and I want to make sure I have a quiet time each day, preferably at home before work, I will have to try to get up a bit earlier. I'm moving the clock up 15 minutes until I get the timing where I want it. The wife, one might say, is not so pleased.

Peace to all!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Morning in the office. I'm finally listening to that Pat Metheny CD, One Quiet Night. Getting the day started.

Yesterday read that over 40 percent of college students plagiarize papers from the Internet. Most students see cheating as morally wrong, but "socially acceptable," I read as well. All very depressing. I noticed that many articles I read about the subject made some sort of reference to the Enron scandal.

There are a number of reasons this all happens, of course. We live in a culture where most believe that one can (and often should) do whatever they can get away with. Many write about how difficult school (particularly college) is, or how important it is to get good grades. Of course we can explore the moral and ethical dissipation of our world. And as we know, success breeds success. If students continue to get away with cheating, then they often feel they will always get away it. Few realize (or care) that "getting away with it" at school does not mean that you will do so in life. Many students tell themselves that since the class is one they "won't really use" in real life (whatever the heck that means), it is certainly okay to cheat to through.

Why would we hire a doctor who gets answers for his Algebra class? Do I really want to go to a lawyer who cannot do the critical thinking required to write a literature paper because he was able to download something from the Internet? Why should I respect a policeman who has paid someone to sit in on his Biology lab?

I need to write more about this later, but for now, I have work to do.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Listening to: classical music on WRR. Was in the mood for Pat Metheny's One Quiet Night, but had some trouble with my computer. Too bad. Great album for the stress I've felt this week.

Last Friday, I had to request my transcript from college. This was more of an annoyance than anything else since my credentials had already been accepted (as far as I knew) from the review committee. There isn't a question about the credentials however, but about officialness of the document. Eastfield is in the process of its SACS work and the process is very stressful. No wonder it is done only every ten years.

So far, I like my classes and they seem to like me. Working to communicate my assignments better. I have to accept that no matter how hard I work at it, some students are going to struggle with the assignments. Tried to stress today and yesterday that it is harder to understand writing assignments if one intends to see the essay as a one-shot deal where the finished paper is in the head before any composition occurs. One must begin the work for some things to become clear.

Don't know what the heck is going on with my foot. By the end of the day it hurts like the dickens. Neck has been sore and tender too.

I think that after years of not voting, I will actually participate in this election. And I hate that a single issue is driving that decision, but I am really upset at the state of a country that cannot tolerate dissent. And I cannot understand a leader who openly works to squash dissent.

Have not done much writing the past few days. Made some notes here and there, but I've got a list of things to do at school that gets longer instead of shorter each day. How very aggravating!

John's retirement party is this weekend. He has been up here closer for a few months but he will be officially retired from service in the Coast Guard. So odd. He is almost a year younger than me, and is retiring and I feel I've barely begun my career. Maybe I've haven't been living right. Seriously, I'm proud of John and really excited that he is able to start a couple new chapters in his life. Also glad he and his terrific family are a lot closer so we can see them more often.

Angela is at school and seems to be happy (except for her mumbling Biology professor). I got her an ethernet cable for her pc, and suddenly I was super dad. If I'd only known it was that easy!

Can't tell you, gentle readers, how excited I have been this week to discover that some 7-11 stores between home and work are now carrying Diet Rite Cola. The diet soft drinks made by the RC people are the only ones I know of that use Splenda instead of nutrisweet (which is not really that good for you). These are also the only diet soft drinks that actually taste like colas. Okay, perhaps this isn't the most startling news of the day, but it is pretty exciting to me. Most convenience stores carry the major diet drinks, and most also have regular RC Cola. But until now, a Diet RC or Diet Rite has been hard to find. So, 7-11, Uncle Mike thanks you.

Reading? Have not had much energy to read the hard stuff I started, but I'm not giving up. I did discover a used bookstore in Rockwall called Roma's Preread Books. There I found paperbacks of Deborah Crombie's All Shall Be Well and Some Days You Get The Bear by Lawrence Block. So if I decide to take a break from the hard stuff, I still have these two. Deb's novel is one of her early ones. I've read a few of hers and really love them. The Block book is a collection of short stories. I think Block is pretty good at short fiction while most other mystery writers manage to merely take up space. Of course, he's no slouch as a novelist.

Well, I better go for now. I have quizzes to grade and one to write. Enjoy the day!