Archive for September, 2013

Socialist Water Park

I didn’t set out to make any political statements or economic analysis here; I just heard an political-economic term and it sounded like it could be a feature at a water park. I thought “What other economic terms could be in a water park?” and naturally they divided themselves into two camps.

map of socialist water park

map of capitalist water park

Here are the features of the socialist water park:

  • Soak the Rich splash park
  • Slippery Slope of Government Regulation water slide
  • Lazy River of welfare

Here are the features of the capitalist water park:

  • Trickle Down splash park
  • Market Cycle wave pool
  • Industrious River of work
  • Negotiation and Concession stands

The generous man will be prosperous,
And he who waters will himself be watered.

Proverbs 11:25


I am against capitalism.  People should be able to use lowercase if they want

Wait, why are you talking about economics and money and politics now? We were just discussing the new style guide…

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Galatians 6:11

Life Lesson from Soccer

I don’t watch much soccer, but I have seen enough youth games to know the stereotypical kindergarten-level soccer involves one clump of kids following/surrounding the ball. It makes for a bad soccer game – each player attacking the ball from his own angle, but all at the same time so it never goes anywhere.

Much better are the soccer games where each player has an assigned role and stays in that zone. Here’s a diagram in case you can’t picture it.

diagram showing how naive or youthful soccer players cluster around the ball but experienced, well-coached players maintain their positions

Since I’m not a soccer fan, why am I writing about this? Because it applies to work.

Bad coaches let the players clump around the ball.

Bad managers assign workers to clump around the critical issue.

“Ted, what are you working on?”
“The Barnum project”
“We have an urgent issue with the Bailey project and I need you to help Fred with that for the next month.”
“Who will do the Barnum work?”
“Don’t worry about that – it’s not as critical as Bailey.”
One month later, the Barnum project is behind schedule and the boss scrambles to find people who can make up for lost time on that one. Of course, he pulls people off their currently on-time projects, which will soon become problems. It doesn’t take long until all their customers are unhappy about the rushed work and poor planning going into their products.

In my office, workers are engineers. Our critical tasks don’t usually scale up well (i.e. more people does not mean quicker resolution). But some managers don’t realize that.

If your manager wonders why it’s bad to send everyone from fire to fire, ask him how he would coach a soccer team.

They do not crowd each other, They march everyone in his path; When they burst through the defenses, They do not break ranks.

Joel 2:8

Dad Olympics

I thought about what I sometimes do as a dad, and then for some reason I wondered how to make it a competition. If there were Olympic events for dad activities, here are some possibilities:

1. Throwing Height – tossing your 35-lb. child into the air (and catching him). Contestants are ranked by highest toss.

2. Throwing Reps – tossing your 35-lb. child into the air (and catching him). A toss must be at least two feet into the air to count. Contestants are ranked by number of reps.

3. Crib Crawl – You need something that was left under the crib of the sleeping baby. You must open the creaky door, walk to the crib (avoiding any noisy toys scattered on the floor), reach all the way under the crib to retrieve the item, and make your way back out. The child must remain asleep for at least 10 seconds after you shut the door in order for the attempt to count. Contestants are ranked by fastest time.

4. Back Breaker – While standing, you load as many children as you can on your torso (on your back, on your shoulders, in your arms). Each child must be touching only you or another child who is on you. Only your feet may touch the ground. Contestants are ranked by amount of weight carried.

5. Loaded Race – Load a 50-lb. child on your back and carry a 20-lb. child in each arm. Run 100 yards. Contestants are ranked by fastest time.

6. Stroller Push – Load a 30-lb. child in a standard umbrella-type stroller. Push the stroller for up to 10 yards before letting go (before the foul line). Stroller must remain on the track for the push to count. Contestants are ranked by longest distance of stroller travel.

7. Stroller Race – Load a 30-lb. child in a standard umbrella-type stroller. Run for 2 miles while pushing the stroller. At least one hand must be touching the stroller at all times. Contestants are ranked by fastest time.

8. Unloading Race – There are 3 sleeping children (50 lbs, 30 lbs, and 20 lbs) buckled in car seats in a minivan. You must put each one in the correct bed with the correct blanket and teddy bear (all of which are tossed in the back of the minivan). You may unload the children in any order, but you may not unload another child if any child inside the house is awake (you must get him back to sleep first). Contestants are ranked by fastest time.

I was going to make it 10 events (a dadecathlon), but I wasn’t happy with anything else I came up with. Leave a comment if you have any ideas for the final 2 events.

Prepare yourselves by your fathers’ households in your divisions, according to the writing of David king of Israel and according to the writing of his son Solomon.

2 Chronicles 35:4

Running Thoughts

Here are some things that popped into my mind during the last few weeks of running. When you’re running for a couple of hours with no headphones, you get a lot of time to think about various topics. The problem is remembering them later.

  • Sand and stones work their way into my socks and shoes while I am running, but they never work their way out.

    Someone should design socks with the fibers oriented upwards so that small objects that get into the socks get ratcheted out.

    Although… maybe the problems is that my leg hairs are oriented downward, and that ratchets objects down.

    Someone should conduct a study – do men with hairy ankles get more nuisance objects in their socks/shoes than men with shaved ankles?
    Secondary study – do women get fewer nuisance objects in their socks/shoes than men?
    Are there enough women with hairy ankles to conduct a third study?

  • Track meet sprint events rely too much on reaction times for the overall times. Why do the runners have to wait for the gun to fire at some inconsistent time?

    I propose that the starter’s gun is replaced by something more predictable, like the red-red-red-green light sequence found in drag racing and Mario Kart. Then the start wouldn’t be so surprising. Do you want to award the fastest runner or the runner with the best reaction time?

  • Subdivisions should have different signs for different entrances.

    It was disconcerting the first time this happened to me: I had been running for a while. I saw an entrance sign for a subdivision but didn’t think too much of it. I ran for another minute or two, saw the same sign, and wondered just how few steps I had taken during the last minute.

    Have different signs. Rather than two signs that each say “Briarwood Villas”, have a “Briarwood Villas East” and “Briarwood Villas West” or something. That way I know I have made progress.

  • I know some schools don’t allow kids to wear Heelies, but I haven’t seen a race that has banned them.

    It would be fun to find a hilly course on smooth roads. Then you could sprint up a hill and coast down, sprint, coast, etc.

  • If you see a guy running without a shirt, don’t assume he is trying to show off. Sure, there are some who are vain, but there are other guys who just have chafing issues.

    On that note, here’s a public service announcement: I have heard the 3M brand Nexcare (active, waterproof edition) bandages stick better than the Band-Aid brand Clear Spots.

  • And speaking of shirts… if you are reading this and you are in charge of ordering shirts for a race, please consider the old-fashioned long-sleeved T-shirt of good quality. It used to be that the local 5Ks would give the runners cotton short-sleeved T-shirts, and longer races (e.g. marathons and half marathons) would hand out long-sleeved cotton T-shirts.

    Nowadays, every race hands out tech shirts, either long- or short-sleeved. The problem is that I have a dozen different shirts I can wear running, but only 2 or 3 that I can wear normally, going out and about like taking the kids to the zoo or going to the store or whenever you would normally wear a T-shirt.

    I suppose I could wear a tech shirt out and about, but it seems a bit ostentatious to me. Plus some of them use such a thin fabric. That may be great for competing, but not watching football or whatever.

    Race organizers: bring the pendulum back to the middle. Can some of you take the extra money you would have spent for tech fabric and just upgrade the quality of long-sleeve cotton shirt instead?


Those that are blind or fractured or maimed or having a running sore or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the Lord, nor make of them an offering by fire on the altar to the Lord.

Leviticus 22:22

Riley Cooper

I thought about writing something when Riley Cooper first made the news during the off-season. His name resurfaced in the news last week because of an altercation during practice, and I thought now might be a good time to write about it.

This piece is not to condemn or condone anything – just my explanation of how it happened. As a response to the people on the radio who were wondering “How can anyone in this day and age mess up so badly? I mean, everyone knows you just don’t say that.”

And to those of you who don’t know what’s going on, Riley Cooper is a player in the NFL. He is a white guy, and he went to a country-music concert and got somewhat intoxicated and got in trouble for yelling a bad word at a security guard, who is a black guy. The bad word in this case was a strong racial word. Mr. Cooper apologized for his speech and actions. End of synopsis.

I heard people wondering why he thought he could say that. Is he secretly racist? or was this just a slip-up?

I’m going to say he’s just a product of his culture.

The culture in this case is the NFL. It could apply to the NBA as well, but not the NHL (more on that later).

Let me use an analogy here. I’m going to use one even if you don’t let me.

Imagine you grow up in Michigan, then you move to Texas. Your accent is different from theirs. Theirs, of course, is funny, and you vow to yourself that you do not want to sound like them. So you make a conscious effort to avoid speaking like they do. You do fine for a few years, then one day when you are at a party with some of your Michigan friends, you let your guard down for one minute and some Texan-sounding speech slips out.

Does anyone blame you for sounding like a Texan? Or is it expected that, after a few years, you’ll have absorbed some of the culture around you?

That’s how I see the Riley Cooper incident. From my understanding, the black professional athletes toss around racist terms like candy at a parade. Only to each other, of course. A white guy like Cooper doesn’t participate in that, but it’s around him all the time – he is bound to hear that word every day. On the field, in the weight room, in the locker room.

Over the years, he has gradually absorbed some of that culture. Normally, he knows enough to restrain himself and not let that speech slip out. But it’s there in his subconscious. All it took was some alcohol to remove some of the restraint and bring the subconscious more to the forefront.

That’s my explanation. I’ll let other people debate the rightness and wrongness of the people involved.

I mentioned the NHL earlier, that an athlete there wouldn’t get into the trouble that Mr. Cooper did. Not because they are that much less racist, but because the culture is different. A white American on an NHL team is not going to slip up and offend a black American, but I bet he would offend a Russian or a Swede. Because any Russian (or Swedish, or whatever other language happens to be prevalent in that team/league) he learns will likely include some unsavory words.

With whom is a person spending his time? What do his ears hear all day? Don’t be surprised when his speech starts to match.

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (KJV)

1 Corinthians 15:33

Summer Book Thingy, 2013

I took a few books on vacation this year. Some were for the kids to read and I wanted to read them first. I also brought Septimus Heap books 3 and 4, since I’ve read only 1 and 2. But I didn’t get to them. What I did read were these:

  • Soup Ahoy
    One of the Soup series by Robert Newton Peck. This was my favorite of the series, and the first one I read. If I had known it would be my favorite, I would have read it last so that I could enjoy the others better.
  • Soup
    The first of the Soup series by Robert Newton Peck. After I started reading this, I remembered parts of it and realized that I had read this back when I was about my son’s age. Still entertaining now though.
  • Soup on Fire
    One of the Soup series by Robert Newton Peck. It was fine, but the plot was too similar to Soup Ahoy.
  • A Squire’s Tale
    The first of the The Squire’s Tales series by Gerald Morris. I look forward to reading some of his The Knights’ Tales series next year, and then reading the rest of this series. I liked the characters he added, the extra magic, to the stories of the knights of Camelot. I recommend it for, say, 5th grade and up.
  • White Fang
    The classic by Jack London. After reading newer books targeted for younger kids, I thought this one started out rather slowly. Page after page of descriptions of tundra. I wondered how tedious the book would be and if I would have the motivation to finish it on my vacation.

    It didn’t become a classic by being boring.

    The initial descriptions are there to set the stage. There is richness in the details. They help engage the reader, who must actually read the story and not just peruse it.

    I read it more quickly than I thought I would. Good book.

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events – The Bad Beginning
    The first of the Lemony Snicket series. I thought I would read it to see if I wanted Alpha to read the series. I knew they were popular, so I started looking at it in the library. Alpha saw me holding it and mentioned that he was on book 3 of the series. So much for staying ahead of the curve. Apparently, they read the first two books in class last year (3rd grade).

    I checked the book out of the library anyway.

    I didn’t like it.

    Other than the mistreatment of children, which was correctly presented as something bad (think Oliver Twist), there was not much objectionable in this book. It was just not captivating. I think it seemed too gloomy or depressing, which Mr. Snicket did warn me about before I started reading. I just didn’t think it would be as bad as it was.

    Other books that I have tried, such as the Septimus Heap series or the Percy Jackson series or The Knights’ Tales series, have left me eager to read the subsequent books in the series. Lemony Snicket did not.

    If you’re wondering for a series to read and you’ve exhausted all other options, maybe try it. Alpha can read the rest of the series if he wants, but he’s on his own.

That was it for this summer – 6 books. Time to start planning for next year.

For a mighty nation has invaded my land, Mighty and without number; Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, And it has the fangs of a lioness.

Joel 1:6