Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Till the bitter end

Coaching is a job unlike any other. It is demanding and an often consuming profession. You are either the hero or the goat and there isn't much of a middle ground. Once ensconced in the upper echelons of coaching as in college and pro sports, things can get bizarre. Things can happen in those realms that happen nowhere else in the real world.

Case in point, Rick Neuheisel, the head football coach at UCLA was fired from his position. That is not unusual as coaching is often a ring-around-the-rosy job. You are hired just to be fired. What I don't understand is how an institution can fire a coach and then ask him to keep coaching. Neuheisel has been asked to coach the team in the inaugural PAC 12 championship game. They have told him his performance was not good enough, but hey, you're all we have so keep coaching until it's over.

How many of us would ever find ourselves in that position? Can you imagine your boss firing you on the eve of a big conference but sends you anyway? I can't see my employer saying gee Bob, you aren't getting it done so you're fired, and by the way, can you work Black Friday for us? This has happened before and most of the coaches seem to continue until the end. It happens in baseball as well. Some commentators have stated those coaches are finishing what they started and they may feel they owe it to the players.To that end I can see a reason to carry on but it is the players often who didn't get the job done that put the coach in that position.

I for one wouldn't take up the mantle and carry on. If I get my pink slip, I'm walking, especially in the rarefied airs of high-dollar sports. They still owe me the money from my contract so I'll be collecting it as I sip a bourbon and coke on a beach somewhere.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Urban Renewal

The worst-kept secret in sports was confirmed officially yesterday when The Ohio State University unveiled Urban Meyer as the 24th head football coach in the program's history.

This comes on the heels of a traumatic year for supporters of the Buckeye footballers, (and the team itself), because of the various scandals that have threatened to bring the program down, and may still do so, since everyone is still awaiting the NCAA sanctions to be imposed.

Kudos to newly-demoted interim coach Luke Fickell for his loyal and thankless service to a football team that often appeared to have both hands and one leg tied behind its back. Fickell was given the job Memorial Day weekend, late enough that he had to keep the entirety of Jim Tressel's staff intact, and adding an ex-NFL player and OSU grad, Mike Vrabel. That they did as well as 6-6 this year is enough of a miracle, given the neanderthal play-calling of his offensive coordinator (until the last game), that Luke should have earned a million-dollar bonus just for not slicing his wrists at midfield one midnight.

Almost since before Jim Tressel was let go/resigned/retired the mob has been calling for the Buckeyes to hire Urban Meyer, late of Florida and employed as an analyst on ESPN. You remember Meyer, the guy who twice inside a year stepped away as coach at Florida while citing health issues, and a lack of balance in his life.

Today's Dispatch has an article stating that Meyer's wife looked into his eyes and believes he is ready to do the job, while still spending time with family, working out regularly, and delegating responsibilities to his to-be-hired assistant coaches. She believes he has found that balance.

I am not a fan of Mr. Meyer; however, he is our coach now and I welcome him, and certainly hope he can rebuild the Buckeye football program to the heights to which all loyal Buckeyes believe is their destiny: an undefeated, unscored-upon juggernaut who wins the national championship every year, whilst beating Those Scum Up North 100-0 or worse every year.

Good luck and good health, Urbie! You'll need it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Twinkle twinkle, call the fire dept

Well, it's that time of year again when grown men turn into master electricians. Yep, it's time to put up the Christmas lights. We have had an abnormally warm stretch this year and the other day I thought I would venture out and give it a go.

Several years ago I decided I no longer wanted to put the lights up on the house. I have several peaks that are steep and slippery and it just wasn't fun any more. Once I decided not to do that I found I enjoyed putting up more lights but lower, and the house looked just as good.

Even though it was warmer this year it was raining all day. I dutifully slipped up into the crawl space and pulled the lights and other decorations out into the basement. I rummaged through the boxes and toted the outside lights to the garage. One by one I plugged them in to make sure they worked, and to my utter shock, nearly two-thirds had to be thrown away. It happens every year. They work when you take them down but don't when you want to put them back up.

Mini-light strings have to be one of the biggest scams sold to consumers. They take the cheapest electrical device they can make and construct it poorly then sell it to consumers who now take these twisted strands of wire that are one step away from an electrical fire and tie them all over their homes. We then subject them to wind and rain and snow and hope to hope they don't catch fire and burn the house down. Then at the end of the season we take them all down and hope they work next year which they usually don't and we have to buy them all over again.

Here's hoping you don't burn your house down this Christmas season. Joy to the world!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A super failure

With the failure of the super-committee to reduce the national debt, it appears that Congress has once again failed those who elected them. Time and time again we are subject to the party-line and not what is best for the people or the country. Both parties are so intractable they can't see the forest for the trees.

Many believe politician's are so focused on getting reelected they can no longer perform the job at hand. I would hope that is not the case for the majority of high office officials, however that is how it is portrayed in the media. Many also believe, and I do to a point, that Congress has set itself so far apart from the common people they have no basis in the reality of their constituency. In their wisdom to exempt themselves from their own laws which may have had realistic reasons two-hundred years ago, many of those reasons may no longer be valid. And surely they will not undo what they have done. Well, I have a solution.

There is more than one way to amend the constitution. It does not need to be an act of Congress. Keep in mind, I am not usually a party to altering the fundamental documents of this country on a whim, however Congress will not do it so we might as well. States may call for and pass an amendment with no intervention permissible from either Congress or the president. If three-forths of the states pass an amendment that Congress is no longer exempt from their own laws, upon the passing of the amendment by the thirty-eighth state, it is the law of the land.

Perhaps that will get Congress moving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Within the past ten days or so we have had a number of stories in our morning paper relating to the performance of the Columbus public school district, as well as the current superintendent, one Gene Harris (don't be misled by the name; Gene is a female, FYI).

One story had to do with a new statewide report card comparison in which the state ranked 936 traditional and charter public schools, from 1-936, in a measure of various criteria. The Columbus district ranked 725th out of the 936, and 600th out of the 611 traditional public school districts.

That is a record of poor performance, any way you measure it.

There was also a story in which a group of past Superintendents of the Year named Gene Harris the title of Superintendent of the Year this past week. The award was based on "her work and experience, specifically as related to leadership, communications, professionalism, and community involvement." One of the past supers was quoted as saying this award was long past due for her. You will note there was nothing in there about actual education.

And then we were treated to Ms. Harris offering her version of targets to be reached for the district's students to improve their reading performance before the end of next school year, as the students in grades 3-8, and 10-11 are currently failing to meet the state standard. In other words, they are "earning" a failing grade in reading. Ms. Harris presented a non-detailed "plan" to the board to bring about a double-digit increase in reading performance by next year, after which the board president said if the district fails to meet these goals, (as set forth by the superintendent, whose job it is to lead the district), it was "unclear" whether or not it would be used against her in future evaluations.

So, to sum up, the Columbus school district ranks very far down the list of Ohio schools when it comes to performance, as indicated by (among other things) 8 grades failing reading, the woman in charge gets honored as Supt of the Year, and failing to improve reading to meet the state standard might not have an affect on her future evaluations.


Better yet, by virtue of being named Ohio's Superintendent of the Year, she is automatically in the running for National Superintendent of the Year!

If she is our best, I cannot fathom how bad our worst superintendent is.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Now I lay me down to sleep

This blog, as I have noted before is as much about a life's journey as it is about discovery. Each day we have the potential to learn something new and add it as another footnote to our own history and experience. Then again, sometimes it's not about discovery because you already know and understand the experience. That song has played before.

This evening My Beloved and I released two small souls we dearly loved. Our fifteen year old golden retriever Sara and her constant companion Kalicat who was eighteen went to sleep for the final time. Although I am a Midwestern boy I have never lived in a rural setting. I understand the uses of animals on farms and working dogs, but mine have always been my pets. I have never understood the concept of an outside pet. Pets are to be inside where it is warm and comfortable, underfoot, shooed off the furniture and loved. Sara was my constant companion at home for the last decade and a half.

I offer no delusions as I know they are not 'my children' as others affect them. But they are beings whom we loved and cared for from nearly birth to death. I find myself looking to where she would lay, and she is not there. Kalicat is not walking across my keyboard trying to get attention. Tonight I have no one to sneak a peanut to or give a bit of licorice. I will miss them.

This evening our home is quietly subdued.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't rock the boat

The recent events at Penn State University are tragic to say the least. But it points to a fundamental flaw in American society. This event as well as what has happened to the Catholic church in recent years and the reported scandal involving the returning remains of military personnel all point to one thing. We as a collective group are not supposed to rock the boat.

When you think back at all these events and the people who are involved they all share similar traits. These people are leaders that are in roles of respect. They are highly educated. You don't rise to the ranks of college presidents, priests and bishops and high ranking military officers without many years of higher education. Along with this education are often moral and ethical courses one is required to complete. So, where is the breakdown?

Even in the government ranks there are special "whistle-blower" laws that were needed to protect those who are actually doing the right thing. Even with these laws there is a collective consciousness of don't rock the boat. Several members that reported the scandal in the military were fired from there jobs or relieved of duty. It wasn't until they were protected by these laws they were reinstated.

So what is it that causes this highly educated leadership to turn a blind eye no matter what the crime? It's simply a culture of don't rock the boat. I as a leader like things running the way they are. Therefore I will bring pressure to bear on those who report to me to keep things the way they are. It is simpler this way. No one really gets hurt, of course except you if you rock the boat. You as the underling are expendable.

I understand the genuine fear of those who report crimes and abuses to those in power. Your livelihood is possibly placed in an untenable position. You as an underling can't afford to lose what you have. It is a powerful hammer hovering above you life. But there is no way to change the culture if abuses are not reported. Those who promote a cover-up culture are just as vulnerable as the rest of us. Let their house of cards come crumbling down.

It's time we as individuals challenge abuses and follow through. When you see the outcry, you'll know you did the right thing. We can't condone an "it's not my problem" mantra in the real world, especially when it comes to protecting children. Give me a baseball bat, I'll protect them one way or another.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Till we vote again

Election day has at last, and thankfully, come and gone. Much of the time there are important issues to vote on, and sometimes not. I get up as much as any average citizen on many of the important issues and major races but sometimes, I just can't work up much interest for the smaller ones.

This November there was a pleasant mix of both with only one or two issues competing for the voting hearts of the public. Sadly, much of what we are subjected to are near lies and half-truths from all sides. I researched several claims related to Issue 2 in Ohio, the repeal of SB5. (For those outside of the land of Buckeye, Issue 2 was to repeal Senate Bill 5 passed earlier in the year that restricted some collective bargaining rights for public employees). Both sides are guilty of 'over-reaching' on the truth. SB5 would not have limited the amount of bullet-proof vests police officers could wear as it was claimed any more than it would have automatically raise taxes to cover expenses. Likely, if you lived in this state you had an opinion. Apparently telling the truth to the voters doesn't matter as long as you win.

I saw a yard sign for a local school board race that stated the candidates name and beneath read, "for families and teachers". Really? Wow, I'll bet that slogan helped you. What did your opponents say, I hate children, puppies and police? I hope you bring more to the table than that as an elected official, assuming of course you won.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Success at all levels

Interesting article in the paper this morning. A local school jumped from a 'C' to an 'A' on their state evaluation report card. They did it in a matter of a single year. The solution was considered radical and not everyone is enamored with the solution.

In fact what they did was quite simple. The students were placed into three groups; advanced, average and slower learners. Notice, I didn't use a derogatory term. We're not talking about dummies or trouble-makers. What they managed to do was to let each group learn at their own speed. Too often the liberal thinker mandates that everything is equal for all. What they then fail to consider is their equality is holding back all these groups. The 'fast' kids are held back because the process they are subjected to is too slow for them. Slower learning kids continue to fail because they can't keep up with the faster kids.

The 'equalitarians' fall into their own trap. Being equal across the board doesn't raise the level of everyone, it often does the opposite, dragging all performances down. They succeeded by letting the faster students learn at their own rate thus succeeding. The slower learning succeeded by, guess what, doing the same thing, learning at their own rate and thus succeeding. Grouping by ability doesn't need to have a stigma as the opponents claim, it raises their success rate by giving them the chance to succeed, thus negating any stigma by having a positive outcome.

It's not about the end justifies the means, it's about doing something that works.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A long time coming

If you have visited this blog over the last few days you may have noticed a different top panel on the right. It has been a long time coming. In fact, writing a book has been something I have wanted to do for some time, and a long time coming it has been.

Slightly over twenty years ago I bought my first computer. I wasn't even married then (Feb 1 will be twenty years for My Beloved and I). It was a Tandy computer model 80, I think. I bought it for the specific reason of trying to write a book. The internal memory wouldn't even hold a single chapter. As I developed the first book I had stacks of floppies containing the chapters. That first effort took several years to complete. It wasn't so much the story but learning the process of writing.

I have discovered that writing is most definitely an art, an art that is a long process of development and discovery. One of the reasons for this blog is as much just keeping my hand in it. As with anything else the more you write the better you write. Every once in a while things get sloppy because you get lax in editing. Editing is as much a part of writing as the original script. It is also very hard to edit yourself as you tend to read not what you wrote but what you think you wrote. Often I receive an email from North of 50 with a private correction to a posting. It is appreciated, and that being said, he has been the prime editor of my past and current writings. (Yes there is another book in the works).

It took a long time to publish for many reasons. In this day and age, everyone is a writer or a singer or a something. That fact alone makes it difficult to break into the world of success as it is a small group of gatekeepers that guard the door to the publishing world. And as with everything else, life gets in the way. The real job pays the bills, keeps a roof over your head and keeps a family together. To that end, I would like to encourage anyone who has this or a similar dream to "keep on keepin' on". I may never have great success as an author but I can now look at this accomplishment and say, "I did that".

Now do your part and go buy it!!!, and thank you very much. I hear it makes a great Christmas gift.