Category Archives: Observations

Practice

This video is one of the most amazing, creative exposes I have seen in a while. 

I like it because of the physics involved.

I like it because this dude is bold.

I like it because my brother used to put newspaper in his spokes, light it on fire, and race around the neighborhood yelling “FIRE WHEELS”.

Here’s to some serious skill!

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Filed under exercise, Observations

What I Learned From Jose Canseco

cansecodon

My parents are in the process of moving, and they are purging all of the stuff that they no longer want in their house.  One of the things they found in the move and didn’t want to place in their new house was all of the baseball cards my brother and I collected when we were younger.  We were very serious collectors from 1986-1990 (As serious as an 11 year old and a 9 year old can be in 1986).  We have all of the complete Topps, Donruss, and Fleer sets during that period plus quite a few “other” rookie cards. 

 

During those years we took our allowance to Jennings to buy packs of cards.  Dad constantly told us we were wasting our money.  We didn’t listen; we knew what we were doing.  Once we got out first Jose Canseco Rated Rookie card, we marched into Dad’s office one night and said, “See this.  I told you we were rich!”

 

He laughed and said, “And what is this nice little piece of cardboard worth”. 

 

We proudly responded, “$85 – see it says it right here in my Beckett’s price guide.” 

 

He smiled at us and said, “I don’t care what some book says about your card.  It’s only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.  Have you tried to sell it to anyone for $85?”

 

Well of course not.  We had Beckett’s, and dad didn’t know what he was talking about. We just kept on collecting.  After four years, the baseball card obsession ran its course.  I never opened another pack, and I even realized that they were a pretty big waste of money. 

 

The nugget of wisdom from my dad didn’t become obvious to me until recently, except instead of a Jose Canseco Rated Rookie card it’s a house.  For some reason I never believed what I was being told by the mortgage companies over the past few years – “Your house is worth $X more than you bought it for. Don’t you want to take out a Home Equity Loan?”  Many people have discovered that the value of their house, defined as price someone is willing to pay for it, is considerably less than what is owed on the mortgage.  I’m glad I learned my lesson with baseball cards. 

 

Thanks, Dad! 

 

And if any of you are interested in the Topps, Donruss, and Fleer baseball card sets from 1986-1990 (15 total sets), I will sell them all to you for $750.  Becketts currently has them listed for about $50 a pieces.  I wonder if the bank will take that as collateral for a home equity loan?

 

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Tribes

I just finished reading Tribes by Seth Godin.  He was one of the speakers at Catalyst 2008 in ATL.  At the end of his talk he gave everyone in the Gwinnett Arena (over 12K people) an advanced copy of this book, which was a very nice gesture.  I had never heard of the guy before Catalyst, and now I check his blog every day.  He has a keen insight into leadership, and basically just makes me want to take some of the ideas in my head seriously.

 

At first I thought this book should be read by everyone, but now I don’t think that is the case.  This book is for the person that sees a better way, the creative that thinks it would be fun do “art” differently, the person that is not satisfied with the same old systems that produce the same old results, the heretic whose ideas don’t fit into the status quo.  This book is not for members of organizations that care more about numbers than fans, leaders that want to lead to see themselves in the headlines, people that equate management with leadership, and those that think there is a manual or secret code out there that tells them how to lead.  If you are the least bit fidgety about a movement that you want to start, no matter how big or small, this book is for you.

 

In the book, a tribe is defined as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”   We are all members of one tribe or another. I can name five tribes that I am a member of without thinking too hard (Crossfit Huntsville, Leadership Connect/Impact, GATR, Couples For Christ, and Fermi Project).  Now, think about the tribes where you invest your time, energy, and resources.  I bet there is a group of people, a definite leader, and a shared idea.  Tribes don’t just form.  It takes a person that has a unique idea.  The idea resonates with enough people that pretty soon they want to join and participate.  The tribes also give the members a way to communicate, explore, and spread the message amongst themselves.

 

I stumbled upon a great example of a tribe that may be familiar to some people.  After completing Tribes early last week, I grabbed Fight Club by Chuck Plalhniuk to read on the airplane on my last trip to DC.  I had seen the movie many years ago and remember thinking that the movie was equal parts profound and disturbing.  In the story the narrator is so tired and burned out on the safe, but unfulfilling life that he is living, so he agrees to join the Fight Club started by his friend, Tyler Durden.  The club attracts men from all walks of life that hate what they have become.

 

“You have a class of strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something.  Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need.  Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they really don’t need.

We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression [you can tell this was written in the 90’s], but we do, we have a great war of the spirit.  We have a great revolution against the culture.  The great depression is our lives.  We have a spiritual depression.”

 

They fight each other to feel physical pain in order to feel “real” again.  Tyler made specific rules for Fight Club that everyone follows – The first rule of Fight Club is that you never talk about Fight Club.  Each night they have Fight Club, new people show up and eventually there are Fight Clubs all over the place and everyone wants to meet the legend that is Tyler Durden. 

 

In the fictional story, Tyler Durden sees the world in a different way.  He casts his idea out there and it resonates with a lot of people.  They get involved, a movement starts.  This is what Tribes is talking about.  Whether it is a group trying to change the way Public Education is administered, a group that starts scrapbooking clubs to give stay-at-home mothers an outlet, a group dedicated to Creation Care to challenge the wasteful, throw-away culture we live in, or leading a Youth Group by showing them there is a way to react to this world, there are tribes out that are waiting to be led. 

 

I recommend reading the book, especially if you feel like a unicorn in a balloon factory.

 

(Marla also gives a review of the book on her blog if you want another review of Tribes).

 

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Learning How to Lose

Today’s post on Seth Godin’s blog reminded me of the importance of learning how to lose.  I became aware of this at my first job after graduate school.  Soon after I started work I was asked to interview graduating engineers for a few job openings.  I knew plenty of technical questions to ask, but I didn’t know how to interview for those “intangibles” that make a great employee.  I decided to ask my mentor.  He told me the question he asks during an interview is “Did you play sports growing up?” 

 

In my mind I thought, “I guess we do have a pitiful softball team, but that is still a strange question to ask”.  So, I asked him why he asks that particular question.

 

He proceeded to tell me that he wants to make sure he hires people that know how to lose.  He said, “In the electronic hardware business, you will get defeated almost every day.  Those amoral electrons don’t care about your feelings.  If you don’t understand the design, or if you don’t have it laid out exactly right – It won’t work.  I want to hire people that know how to lose – people can handle defeat and get back at it the next day.  This industry is difficult, and I have seen many engineers crack.  The one thing that I have found that is fairly common with the ones that stick with it is playing sports.”  (I believe that other activities can also produce the same result of learning to lose – perfecting art, music, Mario cart – but playing a sport forces you to confront losing often and in public.

 

 I think there is a lot too learning how to lose.  Winning is easy.  We can all high-five our team mates, laugh with each other in victory, and share in the camaraderie.  Losing is where we actually learn something.  Your weaknesses get exposed.  It’s up to you to identify those weaknesses and address them to improve – otherwise you will continue to make the same mistakes, you will get frustrated, and you will quit.  Better to learn how to lose early.  The stakes get higher when you grow up.

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Enviromaniac?

There was a really interesting article on NPR Marketplace this evening titled “Is an Enviromaniac Loose in Your Office?  Some of the people at my last place of employment would probably answer, “YES”. Listening to the article, I found myself laughing out loud at the beginning and then furling my brow at the end saying “I wasn’t that bad, was I?”  The article is interesting for a couple of reasons:

 

1.       It is funny – I related to a lot of the commentary at the beginning of the article.  After starting the Green Team at my last place of employment I did find myself pulling water bottles out of the trash and breaking down boxes to be recycled.  Once you get started recycling, it starts to affect you.  For instance, my neighbor works at Dinner By Design (a place that has a menu of meals you can cook at the shop, take home and freeze, and eat nights in the future).  The place didn’t recycle anything, and most of the “waste” was a recoverable material.  She now brings everything home and puts it out with her household recycling.  Between her work recycling and all of the recycling that Amanda and I bring home from the youth on Sunday nights, we have quite a mound of recycling on Monday morning for the drivers to pick up.

 

2.       It is truthful – The response to the Green movement is summed up by two camps of people, “those who consider bottled water a civil right [and] those who see it as a crime against humanity”.  After the “Dump the Pump” day at work, I encountered a lot of people that won’t take public transportation or carpool because they can’t give up the freedom that their automobile affords them.  There are many other examples, but back to the quote.  Both camps are a little crazy.  Like driving your own car, bottled water is convenient, and has its place as.  The bottles are portable and a much healthier alternative in vending machines than any of the garbage made from high fructose corn syrup.  On the other hand, most people blindly shell out big dollars for “bottled water” or a lot of gas just to drive themselves.  It is no different than tap water in most US cities (as a matter of fact it IS tap water from most US cities).  It’s a waste of money especially when we integrate it into our daily lives and elevate it to “ipod” status.  Plus, the bottles really are a nuisance.  Go to any kids sporting event and look at the “trash” as you leave.  It’s mostly #1 plastic bottles – a recoverable material.

 

3.       It reflects the growing frustration that many green koolaid drinkers feel – It is easy to get consumed by your movement (and this applies to any movement).  The part in the article where the girl quit trying to inspire with Ghandi quotes and started ridiculing those that don’t follow the Green Rules is a great example.  I know I had inclinations to do the same at times.  Luckily, I had a few friends that saw me going into the right half-plane and told me to relax a little.  You have to realize that you can’t change a culture overnight.  There are going to be those that do things out of a labor of love.  Some will follow just because they respect you and see some of the benefits.  In the end, for green options to catch on, an infrastructure must be set up for it to make life more efficient.  Otherwise it taxes peoples already busy schedules and it won’t be sustainable.

 

4.       It highlights everything wrong with the marketed Green Movement – I read an article talking about the new Green-snobbery that is occurring in the suburbs.  “Did you see the Jones’ new Hybrid vehicle?  What are they trying to prove?”  Even in going green the market treats us like consumers and wants us to purchase our way to a greener lifestyle.  Buy the more efficient car, buy solar panels, buy all new energy star appliances, buy, buy, buy.  The first question we should ask is “How can I use less energy?”  The first step should be a little sacrifice, not more debt.  Early adopters for green technologies are needed, but we should first look to reducing our needs- it goes back to the entitlement issue.  Plus if you purchase your way to a greener life, it has the potential to become a fad.  “What? You can’t afford to be green?  You must be poor.”  What about the lower middle class family that is has no room in their budget to cope with higher gas prices, higher energy prices, and higher food prices.  It’s awfully arrogant to try to guilt these people into purchasing green just to fit in. 

 

I set a goal with this blog to stay out of the rant world.  I know this post bumped up against the rant-curb but hopefully I kept it between the discussion-lines. 

 

Do you have an enviromaniac at work?

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My 97 Seconds of Fame – The Public Transportation Interview

Public transportation has been a topic in the media lately here in Huntsville.  The main question that is being asked is, “Given the surge in gas prices, why hasn’t Huntsville seen the jump in public transportation participation that other major cities have seen?”  Great question.  Many current local political leaders and many candidates running for office (It is an election year) are discussing this question.  I wonder if any of them have tried using the Huntsville Shuttle?  

 

A few of the readers of this blog know that I have tried getting to and from work using public transportation on two separate occasions (Ride the Bus and Dump the Pump are previous posts that describe my past experiences).  A fraternity brother that reads my blog told a local news reporter about me and the bus.  They wanted to do a story.  I got a call Thursday from the news reporter, and she asked if they could film me riding the bus and interview me on Friday.  I agreed, and this is the news spot that was created.

 

Blog and Ride

 

Like all news reports, the whole story was not accurately portrayed.  The report makes it sound like I ride the bus all the time.  The truth is, this was only my third time in three months.  I hope that I have not disrespect those in the community that strictly rely on the bus to get around.  A more objective look at the bus system should also include interviews with regular riders – not just interested outsiders like me.  I hope my experiences have raised awareness to a problem that, if dealt with properly, could significantly improve the quality of life for many residents of this community.  I also have a message to the political leaders – Ride the bus.  Get to know the problem you are discussing.  Get to know the people that are regular riders.  Get their opinions, not just those of your removed-from-reality cohorts.

 

Like I said in the interview, the bus system is a good service provided by our community, but it really falls short of being an effective alternative to driving.  Huntsville can do better than this.

 

Other notes from the trip:

  • I got soaked walking home from the bus stop yesterday afternoon.  You gotta love the pop-up thunderstorms in the South.  I should have packed an umbrella.
  • Bennett and I had a great discussion on the ride/walk to work.  We discussed how the constraints and characteristics of this community are self-selecting to those that choose to move here.  We are a low-tax, high individual rights community (Our houses all have high fences and the majority of the people will not give up the freedom that comes with driving their own automobile).  So, when we have a big industry boom like we have now with BRAC, the ones that choose to move here will be the ones looking for low taxes and high individual freedom – not the urbanites looking to live more enmeshed in a community.  More on this topic later.
  • In the interview, I meant to say “living alternatively” not “living an alternative lifestyle”, which has its own connotation.  A lot of people picked up an that phrase and have had a good laugh about it – Including the wife of the associate pastor at church that emailed me and said she supports “Bennett and I in our alternative lifestyle living (with a J)”.  Lesson learned – when speaking to the media, keep your message simple.  It is kinda funny though. 

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Filed under Community, Green Team, Huntsville Politics, Observations

Constructive Criticism

Over the past five months I have helped start a “Green Team” at work to look at different aspects of our operations to see if we can be better stewards of our resources.  The Green Team increased the office paper recycling, eliminated Styrofoam cups, and hosted an E-waste collection day for the employees to bring in all of their old electronics equipment from home.  The next challenge we are going to pose to the entire company is a day of public/alternative transportation.  This is part of the reason that I wanted to ride public transportation to work last week – gotta do it before you can ask others to do it.  The Green Team efforts are not the point of this post.  What’s interesting is that I had a friend come into my office today to tell me that when I start to talk about Green-efforts I act different than I normally act.  He went on to say that I have this slight arrogance when I discuss it like I am on another level than the people that I talk to about it.  He said that it’s a very subtle change in behavior – not necessarily offensive, but still out of character for me.

 

At first I got a little defensive, but told him that I would try to think about my actions and reactions a little more on this subject.  I consider this person a good friend and really value his observations and comments.  I spent the afternoon thinking about what he said, and maybe there is something to it.  I feel very passionately about the stewardship of our resources, and maybe that energy and zeal inadvertently comes out as haughty.

 

The constructive criticism made me realize that I need to temper my energy when I get supercharged on a subject (public education, recycling, local politics, religion, etc).  As much as I like to discuss these topics, if I am talking down to others instead of with them, the conversation isn’t going to go very far.  On the flip side, I know I have been turned off in conversations as soon as the other person starts passively judging and pointing out how I should act/think/feel.  This exercise really has me thinking about how to effectively express a message.

 

I’m glad I have a friend that will point this out to me.

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