And now it is the Democrats turn. I didn’t watch any of the Republican charades in Tampa, so I feel honor-bound to skip the Democratic spin in Charlotte. Like 94% of the voters, I have made up my mind which way I am going to vote and no amount of positioning, messaging, massaging, haranguing, self-promotion, demonizing, character assassination and puffery is going to change my mind. From the polls, it looks like I am not alone. The only thing that perplexes me is that, with equal numbers on both sides of the fence, how can one side be right and the other be wrong? No matter which side of the argument you land on, the Demo or the Repub, you can find a critical mass that thinks you are daft, or just plain delusional. Or just simply an asshole. Interesting, huh?
And then I remembered something that Tip O’Neill, the iconic representative and speaker of the house from Massachusetts, once said. He brought the struggles of politics into focus when he proclaimed that “all politics is local,” meaning that politics can basically be boiled down to a “what’s in it for me” paradigm. The big, sweeping positions of the national parties don’t amount to a hill of beans if your mayor or your town rep is not behind your favorite project.
I got into a political discussion with someone last night that I found a little disturbing. It wasn’t just that this person didn’t agree with my politics. I’ve gotten used to that by now. It was the fact that he and I were presenting logical arguments for our positions for about an hour and reached agreement about absolutely nothing. How, I wondered, could two reasonable people have such a widely divergent view of the same situation? And then it hit me.
All politics may be local, but at the same time, and maybe more profoundly, all politics is tribal. Yes, we have two primary political tribes in America, and our identification with the tribal theme and the tribal myths is more powerful, more predictive and more compelling than any set of facts, statistics, theories, or protocols. We are, indeed, primitive beasts when it comes to our politics.
On the one hand you have the WITTs, the We’re In This Together tribe. On the other hand we have the YOYO’s, the You’re on Your Own tribe. I don’t think I really need to identify which tribe aligns with which national party. The answer should be obvious if you listen to the stories each side tells about the current state of affairs and, more importantly, what steps are necessary to rectify the tail spin malaise of America in 2012.
The WITTs have a deeply seated myth that propels and informs their values. It goes something like this: “We are all in this together and the well-being of the whole is dependent on the well-being of each and every segment of the population.” In short, we all suffer if any of us suffer. I know it sounds a little naïve, as the YOYOs always say, but remember we are talking about myths here, the stuff that works on a narrative embedded in the deepest recesses of our consciousness. Mythology is the place where logic and reason go to die.
The YOYOs? Their myth is that each man is an island and is solely responsible for his fate. Sound extreme? Remember the hypothetical, uninsured patient with the terminal condition who was presented to the Republican candidates at their debate? The audience was full throated in its solution…”let him die” they roared with a vengeance that belied their anger at someone who had the audacity to get sick and expect succor from the public tit. And so it goes with the YOYOs. If “I built this” doesn’t encapsulate their philosophical position, I don’t know what does, especially when you factor in the blatant disregard for all of the help that the “I built this” folks had along the way, help that they too readily ignore in their chest-thumping, I’ve got mine, don’t tread on me, individual liberty posturing.
And so, I despair in thinking about compromise and resolution. Tribal identity is a powerful and persuasive thing. It is a lens that brings the world into focus. It dictates behavior and perspective below the level of logic, undermining any potential for reality to make a dent in long-held beliefs. Making matters worse, we humans have a knee jerk response to go on the offense when our myths are attacked. We vilify and counter-attack, punctuating our response as an appropriate and just response to the assault from the other. And so it goes. Back and forth, each side feeling justified in its outrage.
Values are funny that way. You’ve got yours. I’ve got mine. Maybe they are the same. Maybe they are different. But in the end, we all need to realize that our values are just the overt manifestation of some myth that was embedded a long time ago in our consciousness. This isn’t a plea for cultural relativism (something which really pisses off the YOYOs). It is simply a plea to recognize that self-righteousness is the hallmark of the wrong thinking.
Posted in chain reaction
I get that question a lot. Since writing and releasing Chain Reaction, I frequently am asked certain questions. Of course, most refer to Chain Reaction itself, “How long did it take to write?” Two years. “Is it about you?” Hell no. I was a good rider, an OK amateur racer, but a distant cry from the hero, Cal, in Chain Reaction. “Why did you write it?” I was a bored non-fiction writer and thought I would try fiction to see if I was able to do it. “Was it hard?” Not much harder or more painful than slamming my hand in the car door.
Then comes the bonus question. “Do pro racers really dope?” Duh, do presidential candidates lie? Do birds fly? Have Bjarne Riis, David Millar, Tyler Hamilton, to name just a few, confessed?.
Of course, everyone wants to know about America’s favorite racing hero, Lance Armstrong. Questions about him doping pop up with the regularity of, well, the regularity of investigations and allegations about him doping, which, to tell the truth seems like all the time. Now the US Anti-Doping Agency, USADA, is on his ass and a full scale investigation is in the offing unless Armstrong’s lawyers can stop them.
Most people asking about Armstrong don’t think I really know the answer. I don’t. They want to offer their conclusion or belief. Hiding beneath the question is a plea, “Please tell me that he didn’t do it.” I’d like to offer that kind of reassurance. I really would. But, I never told my kids that the tooth fairy existed and the Santa Claus myth was abandoned when they were two years old.
And, as I said before, I don’t really know. But I have my suspicions… suspicions based on lots of evidence, albeit all of it circumstantial, hearsay, opinions of experts, and a profound cynicism and disbelief that one man can be so dominant in a sport in which all of his competitors are guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.
I understand why some people, many people in fact, refuse to accept that Armstrong was juiced. They believe that Armstrong was a superhero and trust that his good works in the fight against cancer have come from a solid place in his heart. I’m not certain that the two things, being a superhero and doing good work in the world of cancer prevention and treatment, are inconsistent with being a doper on a bike. But, some people like their heroes unblemished. That’s their problem not mine.
And then there are a lot of people, probably even a majority, who say, “who cares?” Well, I do, and here is why.
My son is racing bicycles now, and he sent me a link to a story about one of his competitors who just tested positive for EPO after winning the Gran Fondo of New York. Now, this guy, David Anthony, is a cat 3 racer in the 45 – 49 age category. That’s right. He is old, and he isn’t very good, at racing that is. Probably not very good at doping either, since he got caught. You can read his sorry-ass, “I’m so ashamed of myself” confession here. http://nyvelocity.com/content/features/2012/david-anthony-tests-positive Don’t overlook the fact that his confession was offered only after he tested dirty. I think that matters.
What bothers me most is that this sad sack of shit was a Cat 3 amateur. I mean, amateurs? Doping? In local races where the winner gets a jersey, twenty bucks and a few tires? He was going nowhere, coming from nowhere, and had only his delusions of his racing prowess to justify his cheating ass. I repeat, this guy was an amateur. And he was cheating. And the people he was cheating were also amateurs.
Which takes me back to the folks who feel that the USADA investigation of Lance Armstrong is a waste of time and money, a travesty, a case of selective prosecution, and even worse, a insidious conspiracy to bring down one of America’s heroes. And it may be. But when I hear about pathetic characters like David Anthony and his attempt to ride the EPO train to the top, I can’t help but feel that it’s another example of the fish rotting from the head. Amateurs emulate the pros. We watch to see what they are riding, how they are training, what they are eating, and, too obviously, what they are taking to get the edge on the competition.
And that’s the reason that the USADA investigation needs to continue, despite the cost and the possibility that another icon will bite the dust. Of course, Armstrong is using all of his competitive fury to stop it before it gets going. You can’t expect anything less from the man, certainly not contrition. He will continue with his denials, fighting the fight with all of the tenacity he brought to the climbs of the Alps. But in the end, it is only with an authentic and clean vetting of the accumulated evidence that we can finally know the truth. Cycling needs that. Sport needs that. The fundamental of competition is fairness and the statement needs to be made. Hopefully, making that statement will stop the David Anthonys, even if it’s only because they are afraid of getting caught.
Posted in chain reaction
I just received an invitation to attend a writer’s conference offered by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, called “Fiction Workshop: Rx for a Story Worth Telling.” I was going to be in Sun Valley anyway, so I’ve decided to stay on for another week and attend. I must admit I’ve got a lot of trepidation about doing this. First of all, even though I’ve written, and published, (Chain Reaction, Fortysomething) I’ve never claimed, out loud, anyway to be a writer. What I always told people who asked, and lots who didn’t ask but were forced to listen, that I considered myself a good story teller, not necessarily a good writer. False modesty? Maybe, a little. But, come on, if you read the really good writers, folks like Colum McCann, E L Doctorow, Ian McEwen, Francine Prose, Julian Barnes…and the list could go on, how do you come away calling yourself a good writer? Modesty is more than a defensive shield here. It is a second skin, a coping strategy in the service of self-esteem and the will to live.
What caught my eye was the course description. It reads like this,
Stories are like people- they exist with or without us writers, but is every story worth telling. In this one-week workshop, we will look at published masterpieces as well as students’ work and to find, through workshopping and writing exercise, that essential narrative that combines art and truth, and gives us the joy of storytelling. Students are expected to come to class with a 12 page manuscript.
Now, my analytic mind snapped to attention like a dog on point. Yes, stories are like people. Or really, people are like stories. That’s more like it. I truly believe this. When I practiced psychology, my best days were the ones totally engaged when I listened to people tell their stories. They would go through the facts, events and the players, laying it out like a logical time line, and then, like good detective novels, the plot would thicken, get complicated and turn on itself. The inconsistencies in the narrative provided glimpses behind the curtain. It was the way the pieces didn’t fit together, not the way that they did, that provided the most valuable and revealing insights.
The synopsis above asks the question, “is every story worth telling.” Well, we all know that is an easy question to answer. Fuck no, not every story is worth telling. In fact, very few are. Most people’s stories are only interesting to them. Most people telling their stories are more boring than watching paint dry. It’s not the story itself that is so boring, however. It is the failing of the story teller to find the right perspective, the angle, the context, the stance or the lens, to tell the story. It’s a craft, damnit, telling a good story.
I sum it up this way, if you are telling me your story keep in mind that you are not that interesting. Your story may be. But you are not your story. Subtle difference? Maybe. But a distinction that can make difference between a captivating exchange and an encounter so dreadfully dull that you want to put a pencil in the story teller’s eye.
But the part of the course description that really caught my attention was this piece,
…. essential narrative that combines art and truth, and gives us the joy of storytelling
This is so wrong on so many levels. Not the least is that it sounds like a mixture of new age mumbo jumbo shot through the literary world’s own bullshit seasoning. Combining art and truth? Am I missing something here? I read the title of the course. It says it is a fiction workshop. Fiction? Truth?….and besides, what does combining art and truth really mean? I know, I know, my cynicism is volcanic here. I just get so damned frustrated when I read shit like this that presumes that you can throw a bunch of abstractions together and they will magically, mysteriously, fabulously cling together to complement each other, forming some synergy that, voila’, makes you feel like there are other people who are doing something (whatever that could be) that you want to do, but have failed miserably at for so long.
Oh, well, I have to pull the reins in on my negativity. I think, to tell the truth, it is the part about bringing in a 12 page manuscript to the class that has my knickers in a knot. I don’t mind having my writing scrutinized. Shit, I put this up on my blog didn’t I? And you are reading it, and do I give a shit about what you think about it? Actually I do. But, having it critiqued in front of me? That’s a hurdle a bit higher.
I’ll do it though. And if they grind my work up and spit it back at me, I’ll just simply say, Fuck you! It’s art! And that is the truth.
Posted in chain reaction
OK, it’s 10:00 PM and you are burrowed into your couch like kangaroo joey (that’s what baby kangaroos are called. No kidding. You can look it up. Don’t blame me. It’s Australia, after all) in its pouch. You are content, or at least as content as you can be while watching some mindless, brain sucking, summer offering like America’s Got Talent or So You Think You Can Dance. You are floating somewhere between boredom and comatose and unsure whether what you really want is more stimulation or just to surrender and go to bed.
And then it happens. An image at first. Then a sensation that follows the image. You are hungry and you want….not vegetables, not grains, not nuts, not anything remotely healthy. You want something, anything, that is gooey, fatty, loaded with the tastes that will take your mind off of the dilemma of consciousness. Salt, sweet, spice, maybe some combination of all three. Is it pizza? Ice cream? Candy? Cheese? Any of the above, but one thing is clear. Your defense against eating the bad things is weak, and getting weaker. Your resolve is dissipating faster than a block of ice on a sizzling summer day.
Do you give in? Well, I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that too often I do. And by too often, I guess I have to fess up here and say that too often means more often than not.
Well, here is a little comfort. It’s not in the form of food or nutrition of any sort. It is the kind of comfort that comes from realizing that you, and I, are not alone. It seems that late night snacking of the unhealthy sort is a part of the human condition. This chart, supplied by a site called Massive Health, illustrates the nightly epidemic of binging on shit that we are not supposed to eat. And, it dramatically illustrates that when the sun goes down, so does your conviction to eat healthy. Drag your cursor across the map and see how the colors of the countries change from green (indicating healthy eating) turn to red (unhealthy eating) as the sun sets across the globe. It is a progressive descent into nutrition hell. In fact, the healthiness of what we eat decreases by 1.7% each hour during the day. We start strong, but by night time resolve is something that we consumed for breakfast.
There are probably a number of explanations for this phenomenon. Some are simply logistical. Night time is when you are at home and the siren call of the ice cream goddesses is most likely to be heard. And all the things you aren’t supposed to eat are just around the corner in the kitchen. Maybe you are alone and there is no one to get between your hand and your mouth, even if it is a metaphorical blockade. Or maybe it is emotional. After the sun goes down you have more time to fall into the abyss of depression eating. Most likely it also is something physiological. Perhaps your brain is more susceptible to that “eat any shit you want to message” in the evening; kind of diurnal eating pattern.
The defense is clear, if unappealing. Just don’t bring the garbage into the house. It won’t solve the impulse. But it will make it that much more difficult to satisfy. Unless you are really desperate and are willing to get in the car and make that midnight run to the convenience store. After all, isn’t that why they call it a convenience store? Maybe they should change the name to something more descriptive, like the “I can’t believe I’m actually going to the store at 11:00 to buy some Pepperidge Farm cookies and I hate myself for it” depot.
Posted in chain reaction
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a post that I recently read in Jonah Lehrer’s blog, The Frontal Cortex, which, by the way, is a strongly recommended place to go if you are interested in the workings of your brain or the true drivers that really determine who you are, what you do and how you make decisions. The blog can be a bit thick at times, but the research that he reports on in the world of neuropsychology rock your confidence that the decisions you make are anything more than the random firings of neurons crammed in your dome and beyond your conscious control.
In a recent piece Lehrer interviews Bruce Hood, a psychologist at the University of Bristol and author of The Self Illusion, a new book that posits that there is no unitary sense of self, but rather a composite self, an amalgam constructed out of different pieces or perspectives on our identity.
Lehrer tackles the distinction between the “I” and the “me” parts that make up our sense of “self.” I know it is a little like shoveling smoke, dealing with all these abstractions, and does it really make a fuck load of difference anyway? To me it does, but I’ve had an embarrassing amount of free time on my hands lately. Here goes my way streamlined and too-cute-by-half take.
Simply put, and this is a gross oversimplification, the “I” we all think about when we refer to ourselves is the person who is experiencing his life in an ongoing way. It is the self that processes the moment on a continuing basis. Think of it as the active piece of who you are. This is the person that you talk to in your head (you do talk to yourself…admit it), usually starting out with the designation “I,” as in “I think I’ll go have lunch.” You monitor your “I” with little separation between the event and the experience of the event. “I” is the actor in your life.
The “me,” on the other hand is the fabricated, continuity of your self. It is the person that you have constructed a story about, the “object” of your self as opposed to the “agent.” The person that you tell others about. For example, you don’t tell other people about “I.” You tell them about “me.” Sounds simple, huh?
We also tell ourselves about “me,” but that gets a little more complicated, because for some people the “me” and the “I” tend to blend. We know these kinds of people by their extreme narcissism and tendency to treat the others like they are bit players in their own personal drama. And none of this really applies to schizophrenics, because for those sorry souls the boundary between “I” and “me” is as flimsy as a bikini on Sophia Vergara. (I could have used other metaphors here, but I figured that a reference to Sophia would provide cover for posting a pic of her, and I could use all the eyeballs on this page that a hot photo of one of the world’s sexiest women can provide.)
So, why does all this matter? Well, knowing the difference between the “I” and the “me” is a survival skill in our fast-paced, fragmented and continuously shifting world. The ability to keep the two separate, but in harmony, is essential to any sense of authenticity. Think of it as glue that holds the whole shebang together. Co-ordinating the “I” and the “me,” keeping them on speaking terms is more than not lying to other people. It is a central part of avoiding lying to yourself. And, time spent separating out the “I” and the “me” of your “self” is as valuable as any hour spent on the couch with the best shrink.
So, take a moment or two, or three and ask yourself the simple question. Who is the I that I think of as I make sense out of my life, from the inside out? Then, who is the me, the person as he/she is seen from the outside in? Are they in sync? If not, you have some work to do. And, it will be well spent, because the larger the gulf between the two, the greater the opportunity to shatter your self into so many pieces that you wouldn’t recognize your self if you were looking at your self in the mirror.
Posted in chain reaction
And you too, Ski Tracks, and while I’m at it, F U to Jamie McJunkin and all the other 817 asshole riders who beat my time in the climb from Muir Beach up to Panoramic. OK, maybe I am going too far in venting on the riders whose times beat mine for the climb, but there is a larger issue that I am trying to get at here.
The digitalization of my life.
Today, like most days, I went out for a ride on my bike. Mill Valley to Stinson, down the coast, up from Muir Beach. You might know the route. It’s a bit of glorious, serious climbing, sweating on the way up, rewarded by soaring on the way down. The weather was perfect, and so was my attitude. I had put in a hard weekend of riding, so had decided that today’s ride was a “recovery” ride. That means, as the Italians would say, piano, piano, or slowly, slowly. It was the kind of route that reminds you of why you love the sport of cycling.
Days like this are meant to be rewards for the harder, more punishing days. But that was only a good idea. The actuality of it ended the moment I started my Strava app on my iPhone. And then the fun ended.
Strava, like a thousand other iPhone apps, is one of those little marvels of technology that has enabled us to transform every little bit of activity into a bit of data. Using GPS, Strava records the pertinent data of the ride…time over the whole ride, time by intervals, speed, distance, etc. And then it is uploaded. I don’t know where. Right now it feels like somewhere in hell, and spits out a comparison of how you did on each bit of the ride. It lists in full force, how you did relative to all the other people who did the same route and recorded and uploaded their data. And that is hell, unless, of course, you are one of the leaders. But, if like me, you are buried down in the lower ranks, it stinks.
If you get it, you understand that Strava turns each ride into a time trial. Because, and here I confess that I am as much of the problem as the application, once the clock is running, you can’t help but bear down, try to beat your best time, and crush the other fools who will be looking at their times against yours. In other words, Strava technologically enables our demons so that they grab us about the neck and wrench us around into submission. It doesn’t matter what your intentions were when you swung your leg over the saddle and rolled out of the driveway. With the Strava beast recording, you are on the clock.
There are so many of these little apps now. Ski Tracks performs a similar function for skiing, recording elevation, average and top speed, number of runs, etc., all the while providing a graphic display of your meanderings around the mountain during the day, which looks a little like a drunk careening down the street in a pub crawl. With all that data comes the stuff that profoundly changes the experience. A beautiful day of graceful turns becomes 13 runs of total elevation of 25K feet, and a top speed of 63.1 mph. How’s that for gratification? At least it provides evidence for the bragging rights when you post this shit on Facebook. Unless someone else posts their top speed of 67.2 mph, which actually happened to me this year. And, of course, being the knucklehead I am, made me think that maybe if I got a skinsuit and had my skis tuned I could hit 65 mph. Like I said, it brings out the worst in me (us).
The number of these apps is growing. I’m guessing that we aren’t too far from Fartme or Peeflow, measuring volume, frequency…but not satisfaction of these human functions, for all to see.
No, the apps don’t measure the one thing that should really matter more than anything, and that is the pleasure, the analog side of things (OK, maybe this sentence shouldn’t have come so close to the joke about Fartme and Peeflow, but you get the idea). Because, you see, when hard facts, data, cold reality has a chance, it will crowd out the softer side of things, the experience. No, the analog, the subjective, may be romantic, but the digital, with all of its objectivity, will always rule the day.
This is one of the dark sides of technology that doesn’t get enough attention; technology’s ability to shape our behavior and enable our worst tendencies. You see, technology teaches us how to use it. We don’t teach it how to behave. And sometimes it teaches us things that aren’t in our best interest.
I recently visited the local Apple store with my wife and was playing with the latest bright, shiny device. It doesn’t matter what it was, cause the reality is it could have been anything. “But how are you going to use it? You already have several things that do the same thing.” my wife asked. “I don’t know,” I responded. “You see, I can’t know how I will use it, or where it fits into my life, or whether it is useful or a trojan horse for some insidious demon, until I bring it home and it shows me where it fits in.”
I love technology. I just am not sure it loves me. If it did, would it encourage my worst traits? The way a fellow addict offers one last hit before going on the wagon?
I’m going to try to police this thing. I really am. But, just for the record, Fuck You Jamie McJunkin and your 7:42 time up from Muir Beach. My time of 15:22 was a lot slower than yours, but I probably enjoyed the ride a little more. Besides, I definitely could have done 7:41 if I had tried a little harder.
Posted in chain reaction
patterns of activity or behavior that follow day-night cycles, such as breakfast-lunch-dinner schedules.
Diurnal rhythms are the beat that drive our daily dance. They are the relatively immutable ebbs and flows of energy, the arousal and resting patterns, the hunger peaks and valleys.
But, perhaps the place where they are most noticeable is in sleep and waking. And here is where most couples find they are dancing to a different drum.
Full disclosure here, I like to sleep late, not exactly bouncing out of bed, more like shuffling out of bed around 8. I’m not really “good to go” until 9. And that’s pushing it. My wife is the opposite. She beats me to the starting line by at least and hour and a half, sometimes more. She hits the day running, going full force til the evening, when she comes to a screeching halt when she hits the sheets, hours before I do.
What I lose in wakefulness in the morning I recapture late into the evening, or even early morning. I thrive on the hours between 11 and 1:00 AM. I’m not exactly productive, but I am full tilt alert, watching television, cruising on the internet, and finally, because it is the launching pad to any night’s sleep for me, reading til my eyes demand that I shut down.
Now, none of this difference in rhythm occurs outside the realm of morality. Our culture celebrates the early riser (the early bird catches the worm) and looks down at the late sleeper as a slacker, or even worse, a lazy slug. Frankly, I think it is a little unfair. Nobody praises people who stay up late. In fact, we are too often perceived to be degenerates, hiding from the light of day, vampires, night owls who just don’t fit in. So be it.
No doubt, any individual’s diurnal pattern is determined, in large part, by genetics, biological predisposition, and other immutable factors. And some of it is by choice, which is what I wanted to get to in this post.
I’m wondering if we don’t adjust our diurnal rhythms as a way of managing the relationships around us. What I am suggesting, and this is just one man’s opinion, is that we titrate the amount of “we” time we have with our partners, as well as the rest of the world, by sliding the dial on wakefulness forward or backward, setting the overlap to optimize the connection.
Yes, I know it sounds cynical, but I really don’t mean it that way. After all, I believe couples do best, when they enjoy the time they spend together and are face-to-face, occupying the same time and place, out of choice not circumstance. To make that happen, I’m suggesting that we unconsciously set our internal clocks to avoid stepping on our partner’s boundaries to maximize the time when we/they are at their best?
I’m not naive. I know that the idealized, fairy-tale version of marriage proscribes that a lot of time together is never enough and that there can never be too much. And maybe that is true…at first. But over time, don’t we really need to establish some separation to appreciate the time connected? And, isn’t sleep vs. wakefulness an excellent way to make that happen without having to consciously make excuses to avoid connection?
My wife likes to eat her breakfast alone. I do too. I revel in undisturbed time reading the newspaper and sipping my espresso. If we are at the table together, well…it just doesn’t work that way. It’s too easy to start doing that thing that both of us hate in the morning…talking.
So, next time you encounter the “I like to sleep late and she likes to get up early,” or whatever version of this dance you and your partner do, consider this. Maybe it isn’t accidental. Maybe your better unconscious interests are serving the best instincts of the relationship.
Hopefully this will put an end to the guilt about sleeping late or crashing early. After all, what looks like avoidance may really be a relationship survival skill.
Posted in chain reaction
Here’s an example of an association that clearly has its head up its ass, has lost its sense of direction (I guess with your head up your ass it is pretty hard to get the lay of the land), is sadly misguided in its rulings, and is just simply damned stupid.
The organization in question is the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TaPPs). TaPPs is an athletic panel that governs parochial schools in Texas and the back story goes like this.
The Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, a Jewish parochial school, has had a great basketball season, making their way through the playoffs to the semi-finals, to be played Saturday. And that’s the problem. Saturday is the Jewish sabbath, and the kids don’t play on Saturday in observation of the Jewish holy day. They’ve asked for a rescheduling, which other participating schools have granted them in the past, and which their next opponent is willing to accommodate, but TaPPs, in their questionable wisdom has ruled that their will be no such rescheduling. “Play or forfeit” is their directive.
The team has decided to forfeit rather than go against their religious principles and the kids have been pretty sanguine about it. No complaining, no carping, just a celebration of the fact that they have made it this far. They appealed to TaPPs for a rescheduling. The appeal was denied, even though the Tapps organization has a ruling that no games are played on Sunday. Why? Because it is the Christian day of worship. Hmmmm, do you smell a little hypocrisy here? Well, it is Texas, but even that shouldn’t excuse such blatant myopia.
The TaPPs defense of their ignorant and hypocritical stance, articulated on their website is that the bylaws were written in 1971 when there were only Christian schools in their organization and so a universal ban on Sunday was sensible. That was forty years ago. The times have changed, but the organization hasn’t. They won’t budge off their ruling, claiming that any change in schedule would severely complicate things for the other three schools remaining in the playoffs. By the way, the other three schools have all said they would gladly make the accommodation to allow Beren to continue to compete. And Beren has offered to pick up any costs associated with the shift in schedule.
TaPPs’ response? No dice. Instead, TaPPs has given the semi-final spot to the team that Beren defeated in the last round.
So, why don’t you give TaPPs a call. Their number is (254) 947-9268 or send them a fax, (254) 947-9268, telling them what you think of their decision. That’s what the mayor of Houston, Anne D. Parker did. And that’s what Jeff Van Gundy, the highly respected professional basketball coach and television basketball guru did. Van Gundy’s commented:
This situation has nothing to do with the kids. I feel like they made a mistake and they don’t have a vice president of common sense who will tell them that this is silly and its o.k. to change your mind.
Now, in their defense, TaPPs clearly doesn’t have a “vice president in charge of common sense,” as Van Gundy suggests. But it seems that they must have a “vice president in charge of ignorant, biased, and discriminatory decisions that harm the kids who participate in their programs.”
How else can they justify this kind of decision?
Just in case Tapps does change its mind in response to public opinion, the Beren team is continuing to practice for the semi-final game. Maybe, just maybe, their good cheer, resilience in the face of discrimination, and dedication to the spirit of sport will win out.
Make a phone call to TaPPs and tell them what you think.
Posted in chain reaction
Think of a memory. Something poignant, meaningful, maybe even life changing. Challenge yourself by going back further than yesterday’s lunch, or an argument with your partner from last week. Close your eyes and relive it, dive deep into the details… listen to the sounds, see the sights, breathe in deeply and smell the smells, go into your gut and recall the feelings. Got it? Know it? Um, not so fast. Here’s the real story.
It may never have happened the way you think it did, at least not the way you remember it.
There has been a load of research recently that climbs under the hood of memory, and all of it leads to one firm conclusion; your memory is as flexible and malleable as a sideshow acrobat.
The various studies range from the microcellular, determining, on an organic level, which chemicals are responsible for memory and how a tweak here or a twist there can make memory sharper or more elusive, to the social and psychological, studies which show how we can easily be convinced to remember things in a way that is different from the actual events. When it comes to accuracy, memory is as slippery as jello.
The conclusion, and this will come as a shock to those who prefer to see human consciousness as a binary, on-off, computer type of device, is that humans have a unique knack for recreating our lives as we need to, want to, or are driven to see them. It’s as if we watch our lives in retrospect, looking into the mirror of the recent and distant past, but with ever-present distortions, kind of like the mirrors on the sides of cars that carry the message, “objects in the mirror may be closer than they seem.”
One finding stands out. It seems that each time we remember something, we tell ourselves the story of how it happened. It’s like we lay down a neural pathway that stands independent of the actual event. If we change a detail and relive the memory with the altered detail, we ultimately will come to accept the altered version as the real memory. Repetition deepens the rut, so ultimately the revised event is more real than the actual thing.
This has huge implications for the treatment of individuals suffering from PTSD, like the combat veterans who can’t rid themselves of the horrifying details of human suffering. Or survivors of childhood traumas like incest or physical abuse.
Those are the big applications for this emerging body of study. But, on a more personal, closer to home, level, the fact that we are the authors of our own history has implications for how we shape our own lives. If you think about it, when you ask yourself who you are, don’t you arrive at the end point of your identity by mostly retracing the steps, following the flow of the stream, that brought you to the present? Of course you do.
But is your memory, the track of what you did or what happened to you, that leads you to the person you are now, accurate? Authentic? Or is it some amalgam of actuality augmented with dose of “should have been, could have been, and wished it had been?” Not to mention the spice of “wish it hadn’t been.”
No, as philosophers have told us from the beginning of time, perception rules and the rest is after-the-fact filling in the details.
It will be interesting to see how the new findings in memory impact so many areas of our lives…health, psychology, education. But, one thing is for sure, the more that we come to know about how we tick, the less that we actually know about ourselves.
Posted in chain reaction
News out today in VeloNews that Contador has lost his appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He was found guilty of ingesting a banned substance, clenbuterol, a steroid often linked to the beef production in Europe. WADA and the UCI were appealing the Spanish cycling federations ruling that the clenbuterol found in his system was the result of accidental ingestion of tainted meat. It appears that WADA and UCI won, Contador lost, and pro cycling loses once again. Shades of Floyd Landis.
Contador will surrender his 2010 TdF win as well as all of his postings in the 2010 and 2011 season. He has been suspended for two years, but the suspension is retroactive from the time that he tested positive, so he is eligible to return to competition in August 2012.
Stripping Contador of the title hands the win to runner up, Andy Schleck, who was not happy about his delayed victory.
“There is no reason to be happy now”, Schleck said in the statement. “First of all I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling. The only positive news is that there is a verdict after 566 days of uncertainty. We can finally move on.”
“I trust that the CAS judges took all things into consideration after reading a 4,000 page file. If now I am declared overall winner of the 2010 Tour de France it will not make me happy. I battled with Contador in that race and I lost. My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sportive way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.”
That’s class. Schleck may be a lousy time trialist, but he is an honorable competitor.
Speaking of guys who are not so honorable. The Feds drop the investigation of Armstrong for fraud related to his alleged doping.
Ironic. One guy who has microscopic traces of a drug in his system gets spanked. Another guy, one whose drug use is the common knowledge of the cycling community, whose teammates have testified that he was part of a systematic doping pattern for many years, walks.
I know that many will argue that this is the way the law works, that the evidence just wasn’t there in the Armstrong case and it was for Contador. But it all seems so damned inconsistent.
And the biggest loser of all, the real loser, is the sport of cycling, which comes out with a black eye once again.
Posted in chain reaction