29 May 2009

"How David Beats Goliath"

I LOVED this article. Let me just start by stating that. It is by Malcolm Gladwell, author of blink Outliers, and Tipping Point. It ran in the New Yorker and can be read on his website. A big thanks to my uncle Steve for passing this one on because it is really a great read.
There are so many great aspects to this...
  • I loved his rule that he would not raise his voice with his players. More youth coaches need to learn that yelling is not an effective method of instruction for young kids.
  • The parallels drawn between basketball, Lawrence of Arabia, David & Goliath, insurgent warfare and the American Revolution were insightful and interesting.
  • The examples used when discussing batch processing of airline luggage handling and the Fed's handling of the economy but I felt that the connection needed to be a little more fleshed-out to maximize that part's relevancy.
  • ""We're not the best basketball team out there. But they understood their roles." A twelve-year-old girl would go to war for Rometra." Having played HS basketball in a program that was built on team offense and team defense, I appreciate and respect a team where everyone knows and is happy with fulfilling their role to make the team better. While I enjoy watching basketball of all types, I'll take a team with role-players that works together and works hard over a team with a couple stars that carry them. And I can also appreciate that if kids are given instructions and motivation from someone they respect and admire, they will run through a wall for them. That hero-worship can be a powerful thing.
  • The piece about Pitino held extra enjoyment for me. I was an avid fan of those mid-90's Kentucky teams. He talks about the rush state, "that moment when the player with the ball is shaken out of his tempo" and it is that state that can lead to thing going downhill very fast because not only does the shaken team see & feel it and they start to lose confidence and makes more mistakes, but the other team sees & feels it and it is like blood in the water for them.
  • The 'seven-second correction', so the players heart-rates will start high. Great thinking.
  • "We tell ourselves that skill is the precious resource and effort is the commodity. It's the other way around. Effort can trump ability—legs, in Saxe's formulation, can overpower arms—because relentless effort is in fact something rarer than the ability to engage in some finely tuned act of motor coordination." That is a great statement to ponder on and take into consideration, in life as well as when coaching or playing. I love the idea of someone willing to put in more work the rest of the field and them coming out on top. And that is the press embodied. It reminded me of Lance Armstrong book title, "It's Not About the Bike" and that line in his commercial where he says, "Everybody wants to know what I'm on....What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass, 6 hours a day."
  • "The price that the outsider pays for being so heedless of custom is, of course, the disapproval of the insider" I was glad that he addressed this aspect of it. When a team decides to play in an unorthadox manner or uses some scheme that was previously unknown, the establishment will always look at them with scorn and try to make them feel worse about their achievements by cheapening what they do and how they do it. In soccer in particular there is always talk of which teams 'win ugly' and which 'joga bonita'.

28 May 2009

Prittey's Video

After seeing how many fun pictures we had of Prittey between homebase and I, we thought it would be fun to put together a photo slide show of her. I used Photo Story, which is just a super basic free photo show program from Microsoft, and came up with something decent. I put it up on YouTube but they disabled the audio do to their copyright laws regarding the music I put with it and it isn't nearly as fun without the music so I took it back down. If you want to see it you have to download a version that you can play on you iPod at this website (for the next 90 days).

26 May 2009

Memorial Day Fun

In addition to the great bike ride I shared about, the Memorial weekend was a ton of fun. We had a wonderful outing at the Nebraska City park and there are some great pictures documenting it all. So instead of trying and failing to do it justice with my heavy-handed words, just head over to my flickr and peruse the whole set. Thanks everyone for a great time, great fun...and good exercise!

24 May 2009

Fremont County Hills & Trek bikes

Heading for home a holiday weekend is always a great thing. I was extra excited for this weekend because I brought my bike along and spent some time on the drive home plotting out my ride. So Saturday morning I headed out on a nice square route. I can ride 20 miles without any problem, but I'm used to riding almost entirely on trails, which for the most part have very even grade, so this 20 mile ride brought something more the just new scenery and road-riding instead of trails...hills, and lots of them. In addition to a decent headwind, the hilliest seven miles I've ridden led to me taking a short breather when I made it to Riverton to determine whether or not I would be resurrecting my ill-thought out breakfast. Managing to keep everything down, I was able to enjoy the remaining 13 miles. Despite the strenuous start, it really was a great ride, fun terrain, intense workout, familiar scenery, and I got to zoom down Stoney Point to finish it off, hitting 33 mph! I am going to have to find some good low-traffic roads around Des Moines that I can ride. The hills make it a much better workout and more fun too. 20 miles, 1 hr 20 min.
A fun sidenote: I stopped at the gas station in Shenandoah to gas up and get a pop for the drive back to Des Moines and as I was filling up, a guy walks over and is looking at the back of my car. He says, "I'm just checking out your bike!" The man is 68 years old (he told me later) and wearing overalls and a seed corn cap. Not sure how to reply to this, I just say, "Yeah?" He then goes on to ask if it is a racing bike and notes that it is a Trek. I share that I like it a lot and had a Trek before it and liked that one as well. He then shares with me that he has a Trek 7500 and that he loves it. I couldn't help smiling. We went on a talked about bike shops (he says Thurman's bike shop's new location is really impressive) and how he had started biking again after nearly 50 years away from it, He walked inside the station with me, telling me about a guy he knew who lived a few blocks away who was 91, also rode a Trek, and 'did a good job of it!' It was a highly enjoyable conversation and one of those circumstances where people don't act the way you expected. I mean, this is a gas station that still reeks like cigarettes and the flyers in the men's bathroom advertise tractor pulls, poker tournaments, demolition derbies and antique car rallies. Now I don't like to brag, but I have to say that 'the firefly' is a sharp looking bike, but even still, discussing the merits of Trek bicycles with a septagenarian farmer was not something I'd guessed on occuring.

22 May 2009

An 'atomic bomb' of change?

I have to credit CNN. Their drastic and startling (and often exaggerated) headlines often make me shake my head. I feel like they are more about cheesy gossip and tabloid-type stories, but this time it did catch my eye and make me click on the story. I wanted to know what an town looked like after an A-bomb of change happens. :) "Black mayor of Mississippi brings 'atomic bomb' of change" is a good story of a man who grew up seeing Klan in his yard and civil rights workers murdered in his town. He has just been elected first black mayor of Philadelphia, MS. 'A Change is Gonna Come' indeed. Favorite quote, "The places where we were locked out, I'm gonna have the key."

21 May 2009

Econ Articles

When I come across articles like the following two, I regret (more than usual) not teaching AP Macro, or even normal economics. I think about trying to utilize them in my general business class but freshmen and sophomore just don't get the deeper meaning and don't make the connections from real-life examples to the principles in our book like higher-achieving seniors can. Plus I feel like initiating, leading and directing discussion is one of my weaknesses, and one that I hope to work on over the summer.
Regardless, I thought I'd share these two articles that I came across...
This first one about Norway's economy is from the NY Times. It touches on aspects of investing, economic systems, budget surplus, natural (and national) resources, and a mindset on financial management, government revenues in particular, quite different from our own, "We cannot spend this money now; it would be stealing from future generations."
The second article is from the Wall Street Journal about ever growing India and its strained infrastructure. Production possibilities, public goods, and infrastructure are illustrated.

Giving this a second read, maybe this stuff is just super boring to most people and only cool to me. Who knows? If that is the case, I will offer you this article from the NY Times about 12 students who have overcame incredible odds against them to achieve great things. This is one article that I do think will be able to be used in my classroom. Especially for some of our students who have it rough and like to use that as a excuse, it should be helpful for them to realize that there is always someone worse off and that it is possible to overcome serious challenges to your success.

20 May 2009

Bad Powerpoints

Halfway through our powerpoint unit in my freshmen tech class and I am seeing some ghastly slides. I decided to back it up a little and go over what a good slide looks like. I did some web hunting (no sense in reinventing the wheel!) and found this great presentation and this article. (sidenote, I just watched Seth Godin's talk at the TED conference a week ago so it was odd to come across him again. Check out his talk on 'Tribes'.) Although I didn't end up using that "Death by Powerpoint" in my class, it is top notch and not just for those learning the program. It would be great for any person giving a presentation to review and reflect on as they put together a slide show. I ended up going with a much simpler show, only six slides long, but showed examples of how ugly some of the most common mistakes can be, like little contrast between text and background, text that is too small, pictures that are stretched to distortion, words on top of pictures, way way way too much text on a slide, not giving proper credit for pictures that aren't yours.

19 May 2009

Shawn Reigns Again

Although I was a little apprehensive about the results, Shawn Johnson won the mirrored ball trophy tonight as the champion of Dancing with the Stars. After all the judges scoring, Shawn was tied with Gilles so it pretty much came down to the popular vote. And according to the show, the votes for the two contestants were within 1% of each other. I am happy to say that I may have put her over the top with the 5 votes that I cast last night.
I have to say that even though I don't usually like this kind of a show, and they stretch out the episodes with a ton of filler, I loved watched her dance each week and I think she's represented Iowa well. Be sure to check out Good Morning America tomorrow morning (or YouTube it). I'll add some pictures and video tomorrow...until then, enjoy this video of their KILLER freestyle. I also wanted to add that I think he partner, Mark Ballas, seems like a good guy, fun and did a good job of toeing the 'age-appropriate' line that the network wanted. I also thought this article from the Des Moines Register was fun. It's nice to think her coach and all those little girls who trained at her gym getting to see her succeed in a fun new area!

17 May 2009

We are ND

After all the media-hyping the situation up, I watched President Obama's speech today and enjoyed it. He had some good humor at the beginning, and solid message and called attention and giving praise to Fr. Hesburgh and Cardinal Bernardin. And I also enjoyed Fr. Jenkins' introduction, which I thought (and Obama agreed) was well-made and well-delivered. I especially liked the student body chanting the motto often heard at sporting events but taking on a new light in this situation, "We are ND," to hush up a couple of protestors. Check out the transcript here and the video here. The following are a few of my favorite parts:

"And this doubt should not push us away our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious and eager to continue the spiritual and moral debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame."

"For if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together. It's no coincidence that it exists in Christianity and Judaism; in Islam and Hinduism; in Buddhism and humanism. It is, of course, the Golden Rule -- the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated. The call to love. The call to serve. To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth."

"Because when you serve, it doesn't just improve your community, it makes you a part of your community. It breaks down walls. It fosters cooperation. And when that happens -- when people set aside their differences, even for a moment, to work in common effort toward a common goal; when they struggle together, and sacrifice together, and learn from one another -- then all things are possible."

"My Personal Credit Crisis"

We all read daily about the financial crisis in the paper but I think when we look through a lens focused down to a micro, personal level it becomes much more scary. NPR had a couple of great 'This American Life' shows where they explained how and why we have gotten to where we are. Besides those episodes, this article in the NY Times, "My Personal Credit Crisis", is one of the realest and intimate looks at how the crunch happens and what it feels like when it does.
People complain and accuse the big corporations of greed and irresponsible banking, but the same can be said for a lot of individuals. Yes the banking industry failed at its job.
"I am here to enable dreams,” he explained to me long afterward. Bob’s view was that if I’d been unemployed for seven years and didn’t have a dime to my name but I wanted a house, he wouldn’t question my prudence. “Who am I to tell you that you shouldn’t do what you want to do? I am here to sell money and to help you do what you want to do. At the end of the day, it’s your signature on the mortgage — not mine."
That kind of thought process makes no sense. Most individuals are not financially-trained experts in analyzing budgets, risk and making tough impartial decisions on debt. That is what the bankers/lenders are supposed to do.
But the irresponsibility and greed is also definitely present in the individual. This author, for instance, if he knew that his monthly budget left him "barely enough to make ends meet in a one-bedroom rental apartment" then what thought process would make him think that taking on a $2500 a month mortgage could work? And he is an economics reporter???
Even though it is a bit long, I want to figure out a way to use this story in my classroom since we are in our chapter on credit right now. Be smart people!

14 May 2009

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

This is from the NY Times "Pictures of the Day." It's a boy seeing the Pope in Nazereth.

13 May 2009

Lance's Bike

Lance is riding the Giro d'Italia currently (for the first time). He's recovering from a broken collarbone and is riding with the Astana team which is having some financial concerns. I was poking around on Shepard Fairey's website (the guy who came up with the iconic Obama poster) tonight and saw that he had come up with the custom paint detail on Lance's Trek Madone. Check out the pictures here and here. The bike is crazy awesome and the helmet is even better!

12 May 2009

New Celtic FC Kit

Celtic FC released the images of the new away uniforms for international games today and it goes on sale a month from today. I have always been a fan of uniforms and love seeing how they evolve from year to year. Nike & Celtic have made a bold decision with this kit. They have introduced a Celtic tartan pattern to the jersey and the shorts. I think the jersey is nice, just the right amount of flair on a classic white top. The shorts are definitely the talking point of the whole kit. Plaid shorts are not a typical sighting on a professional soccer field, but the tartan is dark and dense enough that I don't think it will be distracting. Overall, I like it! Unique and embodying of the heritage of the club. I won't be getting one though, I'm still waiting to purchase my classic home jersey.

10 May 2009

Pie #1

First off, a Happy Mothers Day to homebase! This post goes out to you!
I decided to attempt my first pie EVER last night and it would not have been possible (or at least not nearly as tasty) without her help. She gave me the recipe over the phone and also told me how to make her pie crust from the recipe that she has used since seventh grade home ec class!
It was fun to make something new, different and challenging. Despite getting a late start on it (the pie didn't come out of the oven til just past midnight), it was a good experience. Thanks mom!

3 Day Weekend!

What a difference one day can make! After getting an email a week or so ago that the last day to use your (one and only) personal day was approaching and finding out that they do not roll over, I quickly started looking for the best time to take it. I decided on Friday. So my wonderful long weekend started on Thursday night with a great night out at Sands, working the rust off of our sand volleyball skills. We are excited to debut our tshirts...they are hilariously amazing. Penguins of Mass Destruction; stay tuned for a future post sharing all the graphics. So we got four games in and they were much needed. Friday dawned and all the talk of rain was not to be worried about because it was gorgeous out. homebase came up and we went over to Pella for Tulip Time. I've never been and thought it'd be fun to check out. I took a bunch of pictures to show the variety and intense color of the varieties. We ate great food. We stocked up on pastries at Jaarsma's Bakery; Dutch letters, molasses cookies, almond sugar cookies, raspberry almond treats. We also checked out Ulrich's which is a great meat and cheese shop (great beef sticks!) It was a great time and fun to see something new, plus we didn't have to fight all the big crowds of Saturday. The rest of the day consisted of visits to the Apple store, bookstores, A-Dong, and a late night run to Target. Saturday morning we did some garage sale hunting and scored a bike that will hopefully work out for NTW. We followed that with a quick lap through the Farmers' Market. It was a great time and the weekend had just started! After homebase headed for home, caboose and I embarked on a massive cleaning session in our apartment. Ceiling to floor scrubbing of the bathroom (yuck) and a big purge & reorganize of our two big closets, which look great now! We closed the day with a late meal at Zen (tasty sushi!).

05 May 2009

TOMS shoes

I was watching Dancing With the Stars last night (never thought I'd start a blog post with that) and a commercial caught my ear. It was a guy saying he was the "chief shoe giver" for a company called TOMS. For every pair of shoes they sell, another pair is delivered to a child in need. My curiosity was piqued and I went and checked out their website and the guy's blog. Not only is it a great humanitarian effort but their shoes are very uniquely designed. Now, anyone who knows me is aware that I had put nothing but adidas shoes on my feet (except for a few weddings and formals) for the past decade or so, but I am seriously thinking about getting a pair of these TOMS for the summer. They look super comfy and casual. So, readers, sound off and give me a YEA or NAY and which pair is better. Charcoal Canvas Stitchout. Tan Canvas Stitchout.

04 May 2009

Patio Garden

I made the trek all the way to the south edge of town last Friday to the greenhouse sale that is put on annually by Central Campus. It was a incredibly gorgeous day and to make it even better my friend Haley went along and we stopped for pops on the way. We took our time exploring and inspecting and finally making our choices. I brought home two types of tomatoes (grape and San Marzano), pepperocini peppers, marigolds, vincas, basil and a jade plant that I may take to my classroom in the fall if it survives. I had to get a few more containers but by the end of the weekend I had everything planted and ready to grow. Hopefully they all do well. Oh and check out the clever hanging flower boxes I put together! I used strong bungee tie-downs to drape the two boxes on either side of the railing. We'll see how it all does. Stay tuned for progress reports.

03 May 2009

Be a DJ for a day

I saw this on a music blog and loved it so much I had to share:
It's probably more fun if you are familiar with daft punk's song "Harder Better Faster Stronger" or Kanye's "Stronger". It gives you the computerized words and you use your keyboard to mix them onto the track.
Turn up speakers and commence time wasting...

02 May 2009

Angel of Harlem

"It's a cold and wet December day when we touched the ground at JFK."

I've always been a fan of the song and Rattle and Hum is one of my favorite albums, but the song came up on shuffle on my bike ride this afternoon (36 miles!) and I just really loved it. I was signing the opening...loudly and I think I may have scared a couple that I whizzed by that were hunting mushrooms in the brush. (I couldn't believe how many people were out hunting mushrooms today! I saw at least a dozen!)
That is a great opening line. Not just the words, but just how the song starts. No big intro, no build-up, just lays right into it. Give it a listen to U2 killin' it. Love it.

Wooden on TEDtalks

I've shared before how this TED organization puts out some amazing talks. And since we've been talking about John Wooden, I wanted to share this video of him sharing on the difference between success and winning. The guy is still sharp as a tack, has great clarity of thought and amazing memory. Enjoy.