Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Importance of Education

Sanjana has suggested the importance of education as this week's 3-on-1 topic for herself, Ramana, and I to write on.

Some may consider education to be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, in a place I lived, while expressing the sentiment education is important, the school board wanted to force the schools under their purview to teach the Christian-based notion of creationism as valid along with the notion the earth is only 6000 or so years old. Man inhabited the planet with dinosaurs and the Noah's ark tale (among other biblical stories) is accurate and true.

So, the question becomes what education is the government responsible for? Secular, religious or both? Here in the USA it should be clear - public education should focus on secular areas. Comparative education on religions is fine as an elective in the last couple of years of high school and at any level of college. Those courses should not be taught as indoctrination but rather comparative studies. LDS teaches this, Catholicism teaches that, etc. 

Private schools, especially those affiliated with a particular faith, have more leeway as they are not supported by public funding. As long as students from those institutions can pass standardized testing that does not focus on religion, those private schools can and do place higher emphasis on religion course credits. The Catholic school system is well known here in the USA. There are many Catholic high schools and quite a few Catholic-run colleges like Notre Dame, St Marys, Santa Clara, University of San Francisco. Non-Catholic colleges include BrighamYoung University, Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, Liberty College, Oral Roberts, and many more. Just as in the USA  somewhere every major religion can be found, so too is the case for secondary college education supported by churches.

Public institutional school systems seem to have failed at providing education in the trades for many years. When I was in high school, there were many opportunities to learn about a trade (aka blue-collar work). Friends of mine learned things like welding, auto shop, and the like. Somewhere along the way school districts made the big mistake of no longer offering those classes. It was usually claimed to be a money issue  - the school districts allegedly could no longer afford those courses. IMHO they could not afford to NOT offer those courses.

It seems this situation continued for decades until a TV show named Dirty Jobs came along. The host, Mke Rowe, traveled to all 50 states, tackling over 300 jobs. 300 jobs that were actively hiring. Skilled trade jobs. Well-paying jobs that often were unfilled.

If the purpose of education is to prepare people for the workforce, we were most assuredly failing. We owe Mike Rowe a huge thank you for pointing that out and for insisting that blue-collar work is dignified, rewarding, and available.

So yes education is important and invaluable. No, a degree is not necessary nor desirable for many. Many years ago my namesake uncle Chuck was waxing philosophic over a few scotch and sodas. He asked me why I picked a degree in Political Science. I told him it was interesting. I enjoyed talking about it and discussing politics. He asked how much that paid. Point taken. Unless a degree can directly lead to a career or be used as a stepping stone to another career path what is the point?

Too often we pidgeon hole young students and force them into career paths that are not really what those students want or should be doing. We need to correct that process.

Skilled trades need to be re-entered into high school curriculums and students taught the value of blue-collar careers. Religion needs to be kept out of the public school system other than perhaps as a club activity. Students who feel the need for religious education should find their way into a private school run by the faith of their choice. 

Every student needs to be taught to read, write and do enough math to do things like balance a checkbook, set up a budget. Advanced courses should be offered to those who desire them. Civics need to be covered - every student needs to be taught to have a civil conversation. Real history needs to be covered. Students need to know the good, bad, and ugly facts of their backgrounds. Students also need to know that they are not responsible for societal failures before their time but if they have benefited from them they need to understand that.

That concludes my quick take on education. Be sure to see what Ramana and  Sanjana have to say.

I'll see ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.




Thursday, June 10, 2021

Regrets

Regret is this week's 3-on-one blogging topic for Ramana, Sanjana, and me to comment on. Ramana chose the topic. This one could come dangerously close to being too personal. We all have things in our past we wish we could undo. It seems this week's topic is the third in a very similar series. We've gone from talking to our past and present selves to what truly shocks you to this week's regrets.

There is a myriad of songs about regrets. One of my faves is by the late Kenny Rankin.


Anyone who claims to have no regrets in life is most likely a liar. In all my years I have encountered nary a single soul who honestly has no regrets. Heck - I remember the first baseball bat I ever purchased and I regretted the heck out of the purchase. In my first year of organized baseball in the Old Timers League in my hometown, Pueblo, Colorado, that sucker had almost no hits in it. Boy, did I feel cheated! It was the last Mickey Mantle model bat I ever purchased. It was nothing but Mays and McCovey models beginning the next year when we moved to California.

I have discussed my shyness before. I can honestly say I regret not making more of an effort to fight through the shyness and get to know some of the young ladies in high school. At some point years later,I was having a discussion over a nice single malt with a friend and he said what the heck - being told no is not a big thing. There was a pause before I responded and he asked what was wrong. I replied looking back, nothing because I do not recall ever being turned down when I asked a girl out. Now, admittedly, you have to get up to the plate to hit and I did not do that often, but maybe I wasn't as bad as I thought. Oh well - that was a long time ago. Were it not for the drought conditions these days it would be water under the bridge.

I regret not getting along better with my kids. We are rarely if ever on the same page about anything and I have not spoken to my son in a couple of years. Jamie and I have almost daily shouting matches. Jamie and Sean have not spoken to each other in years.

I most assuredly regret moving to North Carolina. In spite of my southern upbringing, thanks to my Mississippi-born and Louisiana raised grandmother, the deep south is not for me. It never will be. 

I regret the schism in the USA between the left and right. The left equates something as basic as voter ID as a racist attempt to suppress votes and the right makes no secret of the new laws they are enacting to suppress the non-white vote. As I have said many times in the past, the browning of America is truly scary to many.

The left is so disdainful of free speech they want people fired for stupid things people said in their youth, teens, and more. Who among us has not said or done something stupid in the throes of our youth? There is a reason the term youthful indiscretion exists. Is the suspect action a one-off or part of a pattern of similar thoughts/actions? Try and book a conservative to speak at UC Berkeley. So much for healthy debate.

I regret holding on to grudges - nothing of value comes from extended periods of rancor. I regret not being more positive on a  daily basis. I always considered myself an optimist but looking back that is not the case.

Time for a second musical interlude, this one by a very much underrated LA area band called Love, led by the late, very talented Arthur Lee.

When it comes to relationships I have been extremely lucky. The friends I made in 5th grade are still my friends and I picked up a few more along the way. One of the things my kids did like a lot was the fact they had the same 2 parents until Lynn passed away. We got good at working out the ups and downs of marriage and life. 

Regrets are a part of life, but I would much rather regret things I tried than things I did not try. You cannot hit if you do not get up to bat. I do not honestly regret things I tried - perhaps the outcome of the effort but not the effort itself. If I'd known I was going to live this long I might have taken better care of myself. If I could turn back time I definitely would change the things I did to hurt people if at all possible.


That concludes my quick run through regret.  Be sure to visit Ramana and Sanjana to see what they have to say.

I'll see ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.






Thursday, June 3, 2021

What truly shocks you?

What truly shocks you? That is my question this week for our weekly 3-on-1 blog. How many news stories have you read that discuss some "truly shocking" event? Has truly shocking simply become an over-used phrase for lazy reporters? Here's what I think.

Things I consider to be truly shocking include over half of the state legislatures in this country moving to suppress the vote of people of color by changing the voting laws. The GOP used to manipulate election outcomes by gerrymandering to create super red districts and keep the GOP on top. Remember Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich and others in years gone by? Now, the GOP flatly says they are changing the state laws because the GOP cannot win elections otherwise. Democrats used the same technique (gerrymandering), just not as effectively as the GOP.

I have no issues with voter IDs - but wouldn't linking Voter IDs to driver's licenses be a simple, efficient way to issue them? The bottom line is our democratic system of government is in real jeopardy. Too many people fear the browning of America. Voting power is shifting away from the white majority and that simply terrifies many.

I find some of our local education systems currently in place truly shocking. I went through high school and college and never once heard about the Tulsa massacre 100 years ago.

In the 25 years I lived in Texas, periodically local school boards tried to force school districts to teach creationism - a clear violation of the separation of church and state on which our nation was founded.

Do you know the Beatles have a song that threatens violence against women? Take a listen to these isolated lyrics on their song Run for Your Life.

I love the Beatles and the vast majority of their efforts but I will take a pass on Run for Your Life. Still, compared to some rap and hip-hop lyrics, that is pretty tame stuff.

Some of what passes for entertainment in the arts is truly shocking, but that is the price we pay for the freedom of speech. Change the channel, don't watch or listen, but act like an adult. Firing someone for a stupid comment or action he or she made as a teenager is truly shocking if it was a one-off situation. A history of offensive comments or actions over a period of years may be a different story, but teenagers are infamous for making questionable comments and or decisions.

Transgender people are big news these days. Frankly, it is not something I have a real grasp of but the reasons people do it are none of my business. My home state of Colorado was at the center of this with a hospital in Trinidad being a surgical hub for transgenders. While I have always had gay friends, I honestly do not know if I have any transgender friends. News value of transgenders? Not a truly shocking circumstance to me. There have always been genetic issues people are born with and periodically they become the news story of the week.

Frankly, I find that health care in the richest country in the world not being a right is truly shocking. The lack of care available for mental health issues is indeed truly shocking. So too is the lack of respect afforded senior citizens here. That definitely falls into the truly shocking category - but maybe I just feel that way because I am a senior citizen.

Political correctness is definitely truly shocking. Calling Christmas trees holiday trees is patently absurd. We are a country founded upon Judeo-Christian notions and holiday traditions. We simply drew the line at having those traditions embedded in our government. People are free to worship the faith of their choice or none at all, but prohibiting manger scenes during Christmas on government property is ridiculous. There is virtually no major religion not represented somewhere in the USA.

The politicizing of virtually everything is truly shocking. Soon the condiments you choose for your hamburger will be politicized. I hope mine stays in paradise and does not become a political football.

The simple act of wearing a mask to slow the spread of Covid-19 was turned into a  totally ridiculous political football. It somehow became an infringement on the rights of citizens to wear a mask to help prevent the spread of Covid. The utter selfishness of nearly half of our population was truly shocking.

The percentage of the population that bought into the QANON nonsense is beyond ridiculous. I had people telling me there was a vast underground network of high-speed trains. Another good one was the fact that JFK Jr was not killed in an airplane crash but was in South Dakota when Donald Trump spoke there. Both explained to me with a straight face. Mind bendingly ludicrous. Oh, and Obama is either dead or in Guantanamo Bay and we are seeing a body double/actor. How about the one that has Trump being reinstated as the winner of the last election this summer. His ex-attorney is floating that one these days.

That concludes my quick run through some truly shocking tidbits. There certainly are more than enough floating around. Be sure to visit Ramana and Sanjana to see what they have to say.

I'll see ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

A message to my future and past selves.

 This week's topic was suggested by Sanjana. Interesting to consider is that her past is really quite recent and her future filled with the promise you might expect for a bright teenager. Mine and Ramana's situations are reversed - we have long, deep pasts and somewhat limited futures as we are both septuagenarians. The future belongs to the young while the oldsters get blamed for the present.

It is safe to assume most people my age have been asked at one time or another if they would go back to their high school days and relive them, knowing what they do now. The answers vary widely. 

I enjoyed my high school years immensely, in spite of my shyness and problems with girls. I was likened many times to a big teddy bear. That seems fair enough - I really was that shy until I met a cute little blond who really was the first female to really give a damn about me. She started pulling down some of the walls I had built up around myself. She did look a bit funny wearing my letter sweater though. She is still short, cute and one of my very best friends.

Perhaps I would advise my younger self to get serious about a future a bit sooner when it was clear sports were not in my long-term future. In 1976 in Connecticut I was enrolling in broadcast school, but that plan was interrupted when Lynn was transferred back to California, and we discovered Lynn was pregnant just before we started the road trip back to California. Lynn was not happy with her job in LA and so she resigned. To get back at her, the company let go 3 weeks later. I joined RadioShack in November of 1977 while Lynn and Jamie moved back to the Bay Area to look for work. The plan was I would move back to the Bay when she was settled as RadioShack agreed to transfer me when that time came. I considered going back to school and getting a Masters Degree in Public Administration but frankly, the notion of college again was not high on my list of things to do and I was promoted fairly quickly by RadioShack.

I enjoyed a long, somewhat successful career with RadioShack, but the last half of it was spent being Lynn's caretaker. 

A message to my future self? Try to get along better with Jamie as her life struggles are about to take a big downturn as she enters the home stretch with HD.

That ends my shack take on Sanjana's topic. Be sure to check what Sanjana and Ramana have to say and I will see you next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Maturity

Ramana suggested this week's topic, maturity. Arguably, everyone goes through the maturation process. Most go through at minimum a two-stage process, physical and mental. 

I think it is safe to say people mature physically first. This is easy to see in athletics. High school star athletes can dominate and usually they are a step ahead of most teammates in the physical maturation process. Some grow physically early. I, for example, was 6'2 and 230 lbs when I was 13 and entered Senior league and high school. In Senior League I was the big guy, in high school I was one of a bunch of big guys. I was strong but not exceptionally so - I was really quick. Each time I advanced to the next level in a sport  - frosh-soph to Junior Varsity to  Varsity I became just another stronger, quicker guy. When I graduated high school I was 6'2, 265. I was a big, strong quick guy but others continued to grow, I didn't. My dream of playing baseball evaporated, as the body was made for football. My friend Ed Galigher was 6'2 190 when he left Sunset High and was 6'4 265 when he went to UCLA on a scholarship for his last two years after we played two years together at Chabot. He was drafted by the NY Jets and had a solid NFL career with the Jets and 49ers. I ran into him after one of my brothers games at Chabot (Ed was one of my brother Mike's coaches) and he said all of his advantages disappeared and it was mental toughness and maturity that made the difference in the NFL.

Mental maturity and toughness has extra components in athletics due to the injuries suffered by athletes at the professional level. In truth there are significant injuries at all levels of certain sports like football and basketball.

Everyone goes through the physical maturation process at around the same time - just about when we are in high school. Good old adolescence - it starts around 10 and goes through the late teens and early twenties. Good old puberty when boys and girls go through sexual maturation. I was terribly shy back then - actually I still am. It is a wonder I got through that part. That's my journey in three stages at the top of the page.

As I said, I was extraordinarily shy in high school. In four years I went to about six dances -Junior Prom, Senior Ball,  Christmas dance, a Sadie Hawkins dance and one just to watch my friends in the New Chessmen. So now we come to the mental maturation process.

To me, you reach maturity when you are more interested in doing the right thing than just worrying about what you want. Mature people do the right thing, even when nobody is watching. Of course, the process is not an epiphany, but one that develops over time. In my case, a big step came when I agreed to move across the country in 1976 to support my wife who was offered a promotion to establish the New England office for the small company we both worked for. I essentially put everything on hold to support Lynn. The final proof of the success of my journey was my experience as Lynn's caretaker during the last ten years of her life.

Interestingly enough, boys and girls do not develop at the same time or pace. There's a reason girls tend to perform better in high school. Girls' brains tend to be more developed during puberty. Read about that here. It is an interesting read. I really had no issues in high school beyond Algebra 2. Why? simple -I stopped taking math when hit that wall, thus ending any hope of becoming a rocket scientist. My good pal Stuart in New York kept at it and he was closely involved in developing cellphones. I used to get calls from Stu while he was in a cab in Chicago testing the latest switching technology that his group at Bell Labs was developing. So, at some point in time, it is fair to say the boys catch up with the girls. My old friend and editor Kathi insists men never catch up. I told her she shouldn't judge all men based upon her experience with me, but she laughs and says we are all alike.

That is my take on Ramana's chosen topic. Be sure to visit his blog here Ramana.

I'll see you next week, same bat time and same bat channel.




 

 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Transactional vs morality driven and which are you?

 This week's topic - transactional vs morality driven and which are you - was suggested by Conrad. It is a rather esoteric topic, not the kind of thing you might discuss around the dinner table or the fireplace with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label (the really expensive stuff).

So, what's it all about? Leadership styles. If you are a political junkie you have probably heard Donald Trump called transactional. Other transactional leaders include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Norman Schwarzkopf, Vince Lombardi and Howard Schultz.

"When placed in command, take charge."

Transactional leaders follow regular rules, reward success, and reward followers for punishment or failure. However, they do not act as a catalyst for growth and change in an organization. Instead, they apply current rules and expectations and focus on maintaining it to apply.

 "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."

These leaders tend to be good at setting expectations and value that maximizes the efficiency and productivity of an organization. They give constructive feedback regarding follow-up performance, which allows group members to improve their output for improved feedback and strengthening.

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

Characteristics include

  • Focused on short-term goals
  • Favor structured policies and procedures
  • Thrive on following rules and doing things correctly
  • Revel in efficiency
  • Very left-brained
  • Tend to be inflexible
  • Opposed to change

Transactional leadership pros:

  • Rewards those who are motivated by self-interest to follow instructions
  • Provides an unambiguous structure for large organizations, systems requiring repetitive tasks and infinitely reproducible environments
  • Achieves short-term goals quickly
  • Rewards and penalties are clearly defined for workers

Transactional leadership cons:

  • Rewards the worker on a practical level only, such as money or perks
  • Creativity is limited since the goals and objectives are already set
  • Does not reward personal initiative

There is definitely a place for transactional leadership in the world today. One of its best uses is in multinational corporations where not all of the workers speak the same language. Once the structure and the requirements are learned, it is easy for workers to complete tasks successfully. This works because transactional leadership is simple to learn and does not require extensive training. The transactional approach is easy to understand and apply across much of an organization.

The military, policing organizations, and first responders use this style of leadership so that all areas of the organization are consistent. It is also easier to apply in a crisis situation, where everyone must know exactly what is required of them and how a task is to be done under pressure.

To many people, money and perks are a powerful motivator. Most people need a job to pay the bills. They have other obligations and distractions and would just as soon know exactly how to do their job in order to keep it and reap the rewards.

Morality (ethics) driven leadership is a completely different animal. What are the principles of ethical leadership?  Practitioners and scholars of ethical leadership point to several key principles of ethical leadership: honesty, justice, respect, community and integrity. There are other lists with varying numbers but I think these five work well within the framework of this discussion.

Ethical leaders champion the importance of ethics regularly and they need to be good communicators. Good relationships between leaders and their teams are built on fairness, integrity, and trust. They need to hire ethical employees, and exhibit zero tolerance for ethical violations. Lastly, they need to practice justice and respect.

Interestingly enough, Bill Gates, previously cited as a transactional leader is also considered an ethical leader. The same can be said about Howard Schultz. Still picking your brain over who Schultz is? Schultz built Starbucks into the behemoth that it is. He was replaced in 2017. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is considered an ethical leader - interesting when you consider what a divisive figure he is. He earned his ethical stripes by refusing to compromise his values. He is going to land people on Mars no matter what.

Pros and Cons of ethics driven leadership?  It is a long game style. Ethics driven leaders want to be good and do good. They enjoy being creative.

Which am I? Quite simply, I am both and neither. It all depends upon the task at hand - or rather depended upon the task at hand. These days I am retired and no longer interested in management styles, wherever they come from or are heading. I have a passing interest in political leaders and that, in and of itself, precludes ethical leadership it seems. 

That's a wrap on this week's topic. Be sure you hop over to Ramana, Sanjana, and Conrad to see what they have to say on their blogs and I'll see ya next week, same bat time, same bat channel.




 


 


 

 


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Books vs e-Readers

This week's topic is books vs. e-Readers. The topic was my suggestion.

For most of my life I have been a voracious reader. I have said many times my preference is fiction, typically mysteries, or thrillers, and science fiction. Several years ago my annual total was over 300 read. Yes that is a big number, but way back in the 7th grade, a forward looking teacher named Rex Pinegar taught speed reading in English class. I read the typical mystery fiction book in under 4 hours. If for some reason I feel so inclined I do slow down and yes recall can be an issue, so while in school I kept the speed more reasonable. Some of you may find  that speed hard to believe but I assure you it is easily attainable.

There is nothing more satisfying to me than reading a book. A real book - the look, feel, and smell are all part of the experience. That said, unfortunately my age and eye conditions have forced me to rely on an e-Reader. With the flexible font styles and sizes, there is nothing I cannot read on my Kindle.

It is also quite easy to read multiple titles at the same time on an e-Reader, although that is not a habit I ever developed. I tend to get into the story and read straight through to the end.

Another advantage of books is collecting. I had 26 signed first editions at one time. Titles tend to be much cheaper for e-Readers, many classic titles even being free. Want to check out a new author? You don't need to invest much to check out new material. I found I enjoy native American mystery fiction that way - I started with Tony Hillerman and his Navajo police procedurals and found similar styles for Apaches, Metis, Cheyenne and Alaskan. Since Tony Hillerman passed away, his daughter Anne is keeping that series going and Dana Stabenow and her Kate Shugak series in Alaska are my favorites. There is a great detective series set in Australia - the Cliff Hardy series by Peter Corris. San Francisco has Bill Pronzini's Nameless detective series and then there are the classics - John D. McDonald's Travis McGee series, Robert Parker and the Spenser series, a unique series set in Hollywood by Stuart Kaminski - the Toby Peters Series and  too many more to name. One worth mentioning though is James Lee Burke and his Dave Robicheaux series set in Louisiana. Burke is as fine a writer as has ever put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Read. Read some more. In this day and age of alternate universes and fake everything, protect yourself by reading -become your own fact checker. Don't become a slave to some cult of personality. The future of your family may depend on it.

That's my quick shack take on this week's topic. Be sure you hop over to Ramana, Sanjana, and Conrad to see what they have to say on their blogs. Just click on their name to be whisked half a country away or half of a world away. Nothing keeps travel costs down like reading!

See ya next week, same bat time. same bat channel.