Saturday, November 27, 2010

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

Got this off my niece's facebook. Kids know how to use the web better than old farts like me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough Dancing with the stars WK 4 Argentine Tango

Dance sister dance.  Baile me herman.

This is what the show is suppose to be about.

Bristol Palin - Dancing with the Stars (FULL Performance) - HDTV

I have no problem with Bristol Palin making the finals of this year’s Dance with the Stars.  Personally, my favorite is Jennifer Gray.  Come on, Baby.  Out poll those Tea Party drones stuffing the box for Bristol.  Vote early, vote often for Jennifer. 

The irony of the whole Bristo fiasco is that no one wants to admit what it is.  Everyone is trying to spin the story and turn the truth into some fantasy that the little girl has grown and evolved into this elegant person.   Not that there is anything wrong with it.  Good or bad, we all tread on our parents’ names.  It is said, “The sins of the father fall on the son.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” 

The problem is that people from Bristo’s ilk deny the huge influence our family has on us.  I would be the first to say my life would be infinitely worse if I came from a family that wasn’t able to give me the love, education, attention and assistance mine has provided meme.  Horatio Algiers is a myth to keep people from giving up.  Nicolas Kristof, who is one of the men  purported to have brought Sarah Palin to the attention of the mainstream media, recently noted ina recent editorial, "A Hedge Fund Republic", that 1% of the United States population owns 34% of the country’s private net worth.  In addition, 10% of the United States population owns 70% of the country’s wealth.  This figure out paces former "Banana Republic’s” like Argentina which in 2007 had a concentration of wealth of 1% controlling 24% of the nation’s private wealth.  So much for mobility in the good old USA.     

Poor Bristol wouldn’t even be on the show unless she had a famous mother.  There is nothing wrong with that.  That’s life but admit it.  Instead, the Republican agenda that champions there is no free lunch (don't extend unemployment benefits) and stand on your own hold Bristol’s ascent on Dance with the Stars as confirmation of their beliefs. Yes, we are told she's earned it.  The sad part is Bristol is the unwitting pawn in all this propaganda.  Bristol risks a fall into madness as she claims to be a passionate proponent for teen abstinence and other causes from her mother’s agenda.   It reminds me of Margo Hemingway’s recollection of her rise on the modeling scene straight from her famous family’s farm (Ernest Hemingway was her grandfather) in Ketchum, Idaho.  She’s praised for her beauty as she hangs out at Studio ’54 and the other New York hot spots of the day.  Truly accomplished people offer her admiration and attention while she has the sophistication and poise of the farm girl she is.  She attributed this setting to compounding her insecurities and others issues which lead her to alcoholism and bulimia.  Hemingway’s story ended in a premature death in a friend’s garage apartment.  We all pray Bristol is treated better when her fifteen minutes are up. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Michael Conley: Keep the Ball on a String

Make sure to read the post below which refers to the following videos. Enjoy.

Michael Conley: Ambidextrous Bowling

Mike Conley Sr, two handed dunk

The man had hops but couldn't get a seat on the bench in the devlopmental league.  Instead, he won Olympic gold in the triple-jump.  An added bonus is he coached his son all the from his age group AAU team to the NBA.

Nature vs Nurture

The topic of the cultivation of talent has been a popular subject as of late.  Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Outliers, remains a best seller two years after it was first published.  Similar books such as Matthew Syed’s, Bounce and David Shank’s, The Genius in all of Us: Why everything you have been told about IQ is wrong, also explore the Nature vs. Nurture question with new insight.  This issue is important as one evaluates sports or any activity for their children.

We all want the best for our kids.  We, therefore, look to introduce them to activities where they will be successful and have fun.  It’s probably not a good idea to hand a particularly large kid with mitts for hands a violin. One could easily, however, see the same kid riffing away on the tuba or trumpet.  Such an observation is a generalization but fact.  Talent scouts in all endeavors focus on the identification of specific traits to help them discover the next Yo Yo Ma, Andre Aggasi or Alicia Keys.  Yet, as the aforementioned authors note, the genes matter but how we cultivate the genes matters just as much.

My wife and I watch a lot of sports on TV.  There are times an athlete will strike our curiosity, so we will do an Internet search or go to Wikipedia to learn more about the person.  Inevitably, the path to the US Open Final or an Olympic Medal began when the person was merely a child.  Andre Agassi’s father bought the family home because the backyard was big enough to build a regulation size tennis court.  People want to label Aggassi as a prodigy but he was trained from infancy to be a tennis player.  The time and effort he put into tennis was unrivaled by most of his opponents.  This commitment breads a confidence and sense of entitlement that provides a further edge against the competition.  Every early advantage a young athlete has against the competition is magnified as the year’s progress.  A child who started an activity at three will have done it for half his life by six.  The child who begins an activity at six will be twelve before it has consumed half his life.  Those three years can be huge.

All this is to say those who are exceptional have worked damn hard.  There is no such thing as a pure shooter, a natural.  “Sheer genius” is a label given by those who choose to ignore the work it took to reach the heights which have been praised.  I recall once in a writing class we were assigned to describe an event/process in a paragraph.  Our papers were handed in and numbered.  Each paper was read and critiqued by the class.  The first five papers reviewed missed the mark.  Mine was number six.  I nailed it.  The professor asked me how long it took to do the assignment.  I was kind of embarrassed to admit it took me four to five hours to write the paragraph.  The professor replied, “That’s how long it takes.”

How does all this color the way I raise my boys?  As I noted, sports will have a large place on our kids’ lives.  People openly comment, “Your kids are such great athletes but look at you and your wife.  What else would you expect?”  The observation is somewhat valid but it fails to recognize the environmental contributions to why my kids already run circles around their peers.

Imagine you are a child and you see your mother going out to run four, five times a week.  This is what my children see.  My wife's behavior, subsequently,  makes physical activity acceptable and natural to my boys.  My family lives in New York City.  We walk or take public transportation just about everywhere.  Can you imagine the number of miles my kids have walked compared to the kids in the suburbs who are driven everywhere.  It is not uncommon for my five and seven year olds to walk two miles home from school with their caregiver.  I call this stealth training.  You don’t train children.  You let them play.  You get them out of the house.  You walk them like a dog.  This is training that can take on an Agassi.  It’s a foundation that is stronger and more easily built than grinding and tormenting a child to do something they don’t even understand.

At the kids’ last check up the pediatrician noted the musculature of the boys.  I gather not many of his patients are so cut.  It is easy to say, “Well, look at their parents.  They are lean and fit.  Of course their boys will be.”  Indeed, but don’t overlook the environment.  They could just as easily be statistics of the childhood obesity crisis if we let them.

A comment on the union of a couple whose progeny represents some Orwellian experiment may appear politically incorrect but it is hard to ignore.  Do you recall Flo Jo, the golden girl of the 1988 Olympics?  You know she married an Olympic triple-jump champion, Al Joyner, Jackie Joyner’s brother.  They had a daughter, Mary.  Imagine the gene pool.  Yet, Mary never did anything of note in athletics.  It is said the burden of her heritage prevented her from even exploring her expect gift.  I would say she wasn't nurtured properly.

On the other hand, Mike Conley, another Olympic triple-jump champion has a son who plays professional basketball.  The difference is that Conley Sr. trained his son to make the NBA.  He nurtured the gift and taught him how to harness and appreciate it.  You see, Conley Sr. would have traded his Olympic gold for a spot on the bench with an NBA team.  He not only passed the genes to his son but also the attitude it takes to be a champion.

Conley Jr. has all the benefits of his father’s passion and knowledge of track and field and basketball.  Imagine the advantage he has over the other kids.  I recall wanting to be ambidextrous when I was little.  My dad didn’t care, so I had no help in making it happen.  Conley Sr. knew one reason he didn’t get that seat in the NBA and had to settle for the lowly triple-jump was because he didn’t have any handle.  Guess what?  Conley Jr. is ambidextrous.  The man can even bowl left handed. 

The general conclusion Shank offers about genius and excellence sums it up the best.  He maintains people undermine and discount the hard work of exceptional people and attribute their accomplishments to this vague notion of genius and genes because it absolves them of not reaching such heights themselves.  Genius is in all of us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Gotta Run

I gather anyone who writes a blog believes they have something to say.  What do I have to say?  The title of the blog is a common catch phrase that gives a nod to my former life as a professional track athlete.  The phase recognizes that I (still) gotta run.  Running makes me feel efficient and productive.  More importantly, when I run I am comfortable, in control and free.  There will be posts on running and sports in general.  Yet, "I gotta run" also says, "I have somewhere else to go."   Man, what is going on in here is crazy, "I gotta run."  Damn, I'm late . . .   Consequently, "I Gotta Run," says what is at hand may need a new vantage point.  It is my hope to offer a fresh perspective on our every day lives.

What areas do I feel particularly qualified to illuminate readers?  Some topics could be dicey, provocative and controversial.  "Race "(the color line), as W.E.B DuBois noted,  "Is the problem of the Twentieth Century."  Obama's election did not usher in the post racial America people hoped for which leaves race a dominate issue for the 21st century.  My point of view is fully shaped by race since I am a fortyish African-American man.  At the same time, I've led a fully assimilated life.  This is not only influenced by the fact that for three generations my family has lived a comfortably upper middle class life but also because I am a rather ambiguous negro.  This is to say many people don't believe I am African American.  I guess most of my colored brothers who look like me have jumped ship. One Drop by Bliss Broyard is a good book on this topic.  My thought is why would I want to jump ship and abandon the history of my distinguished family and live life as an ordinary white boy? 

Professionally, I have worked on Wall Street for over a decade.  I began right at the crest of the 2000 tech bubble and continued to shill through the 2008 CDO mess. The industry is all about greed.  I make a modest living because I am too prudent to participate in the scams and hustle.  Boy, can I tell you stories.

One of my writing teachers only let us write about our own experiences.  "You can only be the best you", he would say.  Subsequently, I offer you me.

I think for my first post I will combine my love for my two boys and sports.  When my wife was pregnant with our first child I thought I wanted a girl.  I was worried about the burden a child would have as the son of a world class athlete.  My mind changed when I realized how meaningful sports were to me and how my background and experiences would be a true advantage for a son of mine.  Thus, sports have become a positive focal point of the lives of my boys and our family.  A matter of perspective is in order . . . .