Protective

I am of the belief that toughening up kids is the way to go. I have also always believed that it is your absolute right to punch someone back if they punch you first. Or push. Or slap. Or whatever.So it pains me every Saturday when I watch Caroline play soccer and they have to refrain from pushing (really shoving) back when they are pushed (or shoved) first. And I’m not exactly quiet about it on the sidelines either. But it doesn’t help me, and it certainly doesn’t help the situation, to continue to yell. Caroline has even asked me specifically to be quiet on the sidelines.

But afternoons like this, when I see little shits on the other team, pushing and shoving like this is some kind of rugby match, I am appalled. And not quiet. So much so that I’ve had to separate myself from the other parents. Because I just can’t.

They want to hurt my kid. And they don’t seem to care, because that’s what their over-enthusiastic, self-important dipshit coach teaches them to do. And I want to make them hurt. And the coach that teaches this version of “soccer” to them.

This is not soccer. Not the way it was supposed to be played. My opinion.

I told Caroline before halftime was over to push that little ****** back.

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Then We’ll Get Wet

The waves beneath the dock flowed quickly. The wind on this particular evening was blowing slightly harder than usual. It made for a nice breeze that cooled down the day.

The hammock rocked slowly with the wind. Their bodies had been intertwined for several hours as they napped in the afternoon sun. He awoke to a chill from the wind that made his body jump. He hoped he hadn’t woken her up. But the movement of her legs and arms told him he had.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean to wake you up”, he said.

She snuggled herself into him even more. “No problem. I didn’t realize we had fallen asleep.”

“Kind of nice, isn’t it?” he yawned.

He could feel her smile next to his chest. She looked up to the sky. Clouds had overtaken the afternoon sun, and the bright light they had climbed into not so long ago had turned to a blue gray blanket above them.

She shuffled to get up, making sure not to tip them off balance.

“No, don’t go. Stay here with me”, he said.

She stood up on the creaky dock and looked out to the water. He watched her from his lazy position. Her long hair was blowing in the wind, and he could see the outline of her body as the wind blew her dress against her skin.

She stood there, staring at the lapping water below. Her body didn’t move. She turned around slowly and looked into his eyes.

“Dance with me”, she said. Her voice was calm, but there was a current of determination infused within it.

He slowly got up and out of the hammock’s embrace and stepped into hers. She held him close. Tight at first, as if she were protecting him. Protecting them. But after a few minutes, her grasp became softer. And slowly, even with no music playing, they swayed back and forth until they were one being, moving in unison.

A drop of water fell on her face. The next fell on top of her head and splashed onto his cheek.

“It’s starting to rain”, he said. He backed his head away from hers to see her face. She looked up to meet his gaze.

“So?”

Her look had changed.

“We’re going to get wet if we stay here”, he said.

As if all of the love and want and desire and frustration and uncertainty and hope and desperation she felt was about to burst out of her, she smiled. And a small tear ran down her cheek.

“Then we’ll get wet.”

Trump supporters, protesters clash after Chicago rally postponed

Trump supporters, protesters clash after Chicago rally postponed

This sums it up pretty well:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised officers’ effort under difficult circumstances.

“For all of us who cherish the ideals upon which our country was founded, the hateful, divisive rhetoric that pits Americans against each other demeans our democratic values and diminishes our democratic process,” he said in a statement.

In reading the entire story, I am left with no words. I do like the use of the word “divisive”, though. It’s perfectly suited for what Trump puts out into the world.

Expertise

One of my favorite new podcasts is Top Scallops with Merlin Mann (“Hi! Can I axe you a question?”) and Max Temkin (one of the creators of Cards Against Humanity). Ostensibly, it’s about the reality show Top Chef. As with any podcast that Merlin is on, however, it’s not necessarily just about the titular topic at hand. To say it can go a bit tangent-y at times is being rather generous. But hey, that’s why I like the show so much!

In their most recent episode (It Snogged Out), they came around to talking about expertise. It was based on a scene in the most recent episode where this week’s celebrity chef Hubert Keller was describing his process for formulating a new idea for a new dish. According to Max’s notes from the show (I’ve never seen it, so I have no firsthand knowledge), Keller sits down once the restaurant is closed and empty with glass of wine and considers the current menu. He thinks about which dish he would like to change, as well as what dish he would like to replace it with. He then draws the dish he wants to create. On paper. Where the bone goes, where the sauce goes, and even the texture of the plated dish for the consumer.

To be honest, I had never thought of a chef drawing a dish he was trying to conceive. I do this all the time with screen design, but had never considered it for a chef.

Building off of this story, Merlin and Max delve into a discussion that, to me, really gets to the heart of what makes an expert an expert. I found this very interesting because I’ve been thinking a lot about it myself. As I’ve grown in my role at my job, I’ve noticed that there are now others who look to me for expertise. Even when I don’t consider myself one in my own mind (see a future post about Imposter Syndrome coming soon).

The idea of expertise really boils down to details. The details that only an expert in their field will appreciate. Because only the expert knows which questions to ask. They know how to lay it out in their own mind; how exactly this piece fits with that piece or this piece of information will fit into the larger puzzle to create the solution that is sought from all parties involved. This exactly explains Keller sitting down and planning his dish. Down to the very specific detail of where to place the bone on the plate itself. He knows the details of how to get this dish from idea to reality.

In recent years, Max attended an Edward Tufte course. Something Tufte said (in almost a throw-away comment), Max can still quote today:

A question you can ask in almost every situation to bring clarity to what you’re doing is to ask someone, and to ask yourself, ‘how do you know that?’

That struck me. Take that with Merlin’s earlier discussion on “And then what?” and you arrive at the starting point of how to look at a problem with expert eyes. And from an expert frame of mind.

Everyone likes to be an idea guy. It’s a quick win in a meeting, a high five from the group, and possible serious credit down the line when the idea is implemented into a successful, tangible thing. I get it. I’ve even been the idea guy from time to time. I know how tempting it can be to brush off the details with a quick “It can’t be that hard. We’ll figure it out later.” But what we (all seemingly) miss is that the expert’s job is to come in and take the idea (presumably from the idea guy) and create something real from it. The expert’s job is to “figure it out”. That’s where the questions start. The “And then what?” questions. Followed by “How do you know that?”.

While it can certainly come across as confrontational, most of the time, the expert is simply trying to suss out where the idea needs to go and (even more) how to get it there. How much it is perceived as confrontational really depends on the expert’s personality/people skills and the nature of the relationship between the idea guy and the expert. It can be a very rewarding and thought-provoking experience if done and approached correctly.

I’ve been told that I frustrate people when they bring ideas to me and ask me to implement them. I do exactly what I’ve described above. I ask them “and then what?” or “how do you know that?”. Or even “what happens when it doesn’t happen?”. These are the questions nobody wants to think about because it’s too granular. Too “in the weeds”. Too “time consuming” for the discussion at hand. What they don’t understand is that’s the world I live in, and the world my team and I have to live in to be successful in implementing these ideas. It’s also a pretty good metric to judge if we are (collectively) good at our jobs.

We ask these questions, and maybe even spoil the serotonin high of a great idea, because we want to see the idea succeed. And we care enough to help the idea, and whoever came up with the idea, to see it through.

No one ever said being an expert was going to be easy!

Solace

I don’t typically feel surrounded or trapped. Especially by the night. Or even simply by silence. It is so infrequent in my life that when I experience it (like I am tonight) it’s unsettling at first. The night itself envelopes me in a feeling unlike any other. It encloses me in its blanket of darkness. Intellectually, I know it’s the same environment I was in mere hours before. But it’s different. In my bones, the overwhelming sense of being alone makes it different.

As I walk along the pier to the outermost dock, I hear popping sounds. Sounds that, at a distance, sound like the pop rocks we used to throw down as kids. Up close, however, I realize it’s the packed mud underneath the pier expelling oxygen. Almost like it’s breathing. Pops here and there pepper the otherwise silent soundtrack.

I look up as I continue walking. And I am amazed to see the stars. They are so clear and so bright. They are so beautiful that I can’t even describe it. A picture from my phone does it even less justice than words would. The Little Dipper. The Big Dipper. The North Star. The moon shining so brightly it leaves a trail when I look away. I don’t normally see this living in the city. I am mesmerized by the simplicity of it all.

The dock gently sways with the water beneath, and I can hear small fish surfacing and re-diving every now and again. It’s warmer than it was this afternoon. I guess the wind in the area has died down quite a bit.

I stand in the middle, just…being.

Minutes pass. An hour.

The feeling remains.

Weariness kicks in. After a long day of driving and a couple of drinks with dinner, I can feel the exhaustion coming quickly. I turn to walk back down the pier toward the house. Halfway down though, I stop.

How often do I get the opportunity to just be? When it’s just me, the darkness, the silence, and a pier? I turn back to walk again toward the dock.

This is the time, Lee. To soak it in. To feel the warmth surround you. Relish the darkness. The solitude. These are the times to remember when stress levels peak. When it seems like you can’t catch a break. And the world seems to be against you.

That is what has brought me to this place. This magical place of solace. And mud popping. And star gazing.

It is time.

Straight Talk…Until it’s Not

I was listening to Slate’s Political Gabfest this afternoon and found myself frustrated in hearing, yet again, that people are sick of “years and years and years of politicians saying a lot of words that are basically meaningless” (John Dickerson). That this is why Bernie Sanders and (with much more impact) Donald Trump are putting up such impressive campaigns this year. I’ve heard it from podcasts. I’ve read it in new stories, blogs, and articles. I’ve even seen it on the increasingly small amount of TV that I’m able to watch.

And I just don’t understand something.

Are people really this gullible?

“[Candidate X] listens to me.”
“[Candidate X] stands up for us.”
“[Candidate X] is not afraid to speak their mind.”
“[Candidate X] doesn’t sound like a politician.”
“[Candidate X] sounds like a real person.”

Every time I come across these sayings, the internal voice in my mind is screaming “UNTIL THEY DON’T!!!” The “doesn’t sound like a politician” one really gets to me because I hear these people say this as they walk out of a POLITICAL RALLY. I mean, come on.

I even heard Emily Bazelon even say “sometimes it’s like a breath of fresh air when I hear Donald Trump because it’s not what a politician would say”.

Breath of fresh air? Breath of fresh air?!?!

Let’s not get it twisted, I could write a very long screed on my thoughts on what a horrible gasbag Donald Trump is, but I won’t right now. Let’s just say these “fresh air” statements are incredibly disturbing, inflammatory, racist, and just flat out mean. And yet, people believe in him. And his direction. (Never mind he has given ZERO policy statements deeper than “make America great again”.)

But I still come back to the idea that people truly believe the things these people say at these rallies. Like anyone could actually live up to everything that they say when attempting to court votes in an election. If there’s anything we’ve learned, the hope of a revolutionary candidate (or candidacy) can always be squashed by bullshit politics in the everyday. We’ve seen this time and time again. President Obama is just the most recent example. I personally had hope of radical change in the way things are accomplished in Washington. I was proven mostly wrong.

The funny thing is it’s not always the candidate’s fault. With Obama, my lord, could Congress have been any more ridiculous? Even right now in the midst of Antonin Scalia’s vacant Supreme Court seat, Congressional Republicans publicly state things they know to be against the spirit of the Constitution. And even state that President Obama’s constitutionally spelled out job is not the right thing to do. I’m quite sure they ran (in their own elections) on upholding and protecting the Constitution. Yet, here they are. NOT doing that.

I wanted to believe in the fervor of change. I bought into it. And I still believe having a president of color was a great step forward in this country. But I can no longer believe that any meaningful change will happen as long as the political temperature stays what it is right now.

I want to believe in some of the radical changes Sanders is proposing. But I’d consider myself naive to believe any of those things could actually happen. Regardless if they should or not.

And I’m not even going to touch the stupidity and outright hatred that Trump espouses. Does he really believe the things he is saying? My guess is probably not. But he’s saying them nonetheless. And he certainly has convinced a lot of people that he does.

A topic for another day…

Late Night Truths

The more I listen to singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson, the more I like him. I don’t mean just his music, which I like very much already. Twitter has opened the door for artists like Matt to share their personal thoughts as well as their music with fans and followers alike.

This past February 18th, Matt was up late (California time) and tweeting. Here are his series of tweets (unedited in all its Twitter shorthand glory):

I’m not sure how people turn off the world. lately, for me, it just feels like a faucet that’s been left on.

we get so much information. so many voices. screaming their opinion. being an actual expert on something has so little currency.

it’s so hard to get humans to focus on real problems. because no one feels empowered. why is it so hard to love ourselves?

we are capable of so much greatness. but we spend so much of our time squandering our energy on fear-based, useless hate.

90% of people know just enough about things like race and government. and the environment. to be paralyzed. and no one listens.

i mean… we have a presidential candidate who posted a photo of a fucking gun on his socials and wrote ‘america’

the only way to get your message heard through the din is blunt force trauma.

and we are so polarized and hopeless as a country, that NO ONE HEARS ANYONE.

garbage in / garbage out. this is just a fact. where is the nutrition coming from in this culture? we need voices of fucking kindness.

and empathy. on REAL issues. not just photos of fucking cats.

we have to see the bigoted, racist, sexist parts of ourselves. and be honest about them. in order to evolve past them. we have to LISTEN

to other people’s experiences. and shut our fucking mouths. (this coming from the king of privilege over here.. straight, white, and male.)

it is our job to be optimists. it is our job to be kind. it is our job to live our life without hurting ourselves or others.

it is our job to clear space for the voices of those without voices. it is our job to listen to those we don’t understand.

it is our job to treat these fundamental problems at their roots. not beat them over the head with a sledgehammer and think they will die.

most of the stuff we fear and guard against, as individuals, NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO US. what a colossal waste of energy.

I love what Matt is saying here. I love how he’s saying it. The raw emotion.
Just like his music, his words prove to be powerful as well.