If Dr. Fauci was an umpire, his SAFE! call would be the end of “in place” griping

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Equating Dr. Fauci’s influence in so much relative to this pandemic with the ability I, as an umpire, held sway over decisions that affected how events went forward in the lives of others,  is specious.

Still, while its permissible to gripe about some calls, when the ump says, “This is how it shall be,” well, a lot of  ‘Mericans seem to count that as more factual than Fauci’s forty years of expertise gets him about Next, coronoa-wise.

Before each game, I went to both dugouts to discuss “the high strike” in arc pitch softball, that area at the top of arm but below the shoulder, where the tough calls are. Anybody can call ’em down the pipe, and pointing out the specific area *I* called a strike, my exit line was usually, “But you’re all hitters here, right?” meaning working walks is mehh.

A player I recall saying he didn’t LIKE my strike zone – but I called it consistently – was all anyone should ask for. For those clamoring for “freedom” from the  tyranny of being told not to congregate to improve chances of NOT getting sick, just know that I let a pitcher throw a strike to someone who stepped out of the batters box without asking permission.

‘Outside’ as helpful, not ‘bum rush to’

Umping in a medium pitch league, by the third inning I’d sent enough guys to first that the catcher was catching heat from his pitcher. I told him, again, “Tell your guy he’s this much (thumb-forefinger couple inches) off the plate.” A couple more walks in the fifth, he yells, “Hey ref! I been putting it in the same place all night!” I took one step onto the plate, pointed at him and asked, “Which of us better change what they’re doing then?”

The reality was, that strange motion he had when looking at his catcher for location, was because HE WAS LEGALLY BLIND in his left eye. Talk about flipping a cliche. The point I expected to convey was, straight up, that my opinion was the one that counted.

Frankly, Fauci has done that step up more than a couple times during truth-oriented situations, even with his political boss nearby. In the video conference he did with the Senate this week, he handled Rand Paul admirably – no, he’s not political or the “be all” on answers – but there is forty years of well-regarded expertise.

When Trump said “Maybe there’s nothing in the fall,” he came right to the mike and said, “We WILL have a wave of corona virus in the fall.” IMHO, that’s a definitive call on the second half of a double play grounder.

If anyone, my nephew included, questioned my calls (he did, in a minor league LL volunteer stint), you are two pitches from being struck out.

Umpiring and standing up for ‘right’

There was a girls league in Charlotte where they apparently worked the “run rabbit run!” style. The (obviously) better team would get people on, then, because *you can’t lead or steal until the ball crosses the plate,* they essentially went wild on the catchers throws back to the pitcher.  Inaccurate throws around the infield to stop runners quickly became a cycle of two runs and someone on second.

I see part of the umpire’s job as fairness. Following the catcher to the backstop (she really couldn’t stop much), I told her to call time out. Then throw the ball to the pitcher, after which I said, “Play ball.” After a single inning of that, the A-team manager asked what I was doing, and while I knew I’d never be coming back, letting people run wild and getting mercy-ruled by errors is a humiliating way to lose an un-fun game in three innings, that I could do something about.

Fauci as Umpire:  Check the states “re-opening” and having spikes in their infected rates about un-fun. If Dr. Fauci controls the “we’re gonna go-go-go operation” (I did), makes the call on scientific results (and expertise) vs. going to instant replay or another court case, that’s an ump who hits a righteous standard.

Rules matter

While unprepared, I volunteered to do a charity tournament game wearing topsiders, a tank top, and Ray Bans. Left field was actually unfenced, allowing outfielders to chase foul balls. With runners on 1st and 2nd, left fielder catches a long foul, and throwing to third from an angle, he clongs it off a light tower, it ricochets into center, and two runs score.

After searching for the guy with ground rules, it becomes one base on the throw, so only one run scores. Unfortunately, one person (female) wouldn’t quit “discussing” it, so I finally gave the word: Next yapping I heard, she’d be leaving.

After the game, two large players came over and asked me about singling her out. I explained that I went and found the ground rule and applied it. I had umpired plenty before, I didn’t have to put up with the sh*t, but if I left, the game was going to be in trouble. I wished them good luck and walked away..

An all time favorite was a runner interference call. Runners on 1st and 2nd, one out, with a major pop up to the shortstop. Runner from second was *right* in front of her, she dropped it, girl from first scored off two errant throws.

I couldn’t help myself – I said, “Boy, if that happened to my shortstop, I’d probably want to talk to somebody about it.”

The catcher held her hand up to stop the pitcher, turned to look at me, then walked out, and while talking to the pitcher, pointed back at me. She came back and said she wanted to make an appeal; I asked whether the runner going from 1st-2nd, or 2nd-3rd. She got the answer right, I yelled “runners out!” and both teams changed, with the manager having no idea what happened.

As for one guy cheating up in batters box, knowing the pitcher couldn’t get it in his strike zone with arc AND across (vs. land on) the plate, or, very likely have to give him a pitch he could cream, my job is still ensuring a fair game. I told the catcher, “Throw it any way you want,” which was essentially flat.

Batting box cheats and  people carrying military-style assault rifles while protesting ‘in place’ rule in Michigan, but not in NY is a valid analogy. Why? Because in NY the rule is you empty your pockets into little trays before going through a metal detector in state buildings, and pistols, AR-15s, and grenade launchers DON’T come in the building.

There are things YOU want to do, that might be good for you, but that aren’t fair to others. If it was simply a matter of rights, and it might trim the herd appropriately by doing something uncool like exposing themselves to unseeable but deadly viruses, fine, but the fact is, that behavior might affect me, and that’s not the best way to run a pandemic.

I’m still willing to look for the SAFE! sign from Dr. Fauci instead of listening to the bench saying, “Looked good from here, ump.”

 

Hoops and heat for ‘Lockdown Prep’ NC weekend, some worries about NY people

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Its never a bad time to notice stylish local artwork, sunny or not.

Going into a statewide lockdown on Monday didn’t stop it from being a glorious spring weekend in Charlotte. Eighty-eight on Saturday was plenty hot, getting out to shoot for forty minutes or so brought back hoops memories from Tampa, those times mi amigo Ivan and I beat each other to death in Tampa, FL humidity and blazing heat.

This isn’t a eulogy, but yes, I’m thinking about him being vulnerable and, as far as I know, unless he’s at the Mayo Clinic again because he’s lived with prostate cancer a dozen years now, he’s right at Ground Zero.  in Bronxville, NY. He’s like ninety-odd pills a day a medical marvel, but when you hear “underlying causes” with COVID-19, he’s definitely in that category.

We never even brought Power Ade with us back then, maybe a water bottle, then game to 100 – you could make up to three free throws after a basket.  It would be 94+ degrees, we could have stroked out. Younger then of course, stupid but physically capable of recovery, maybe a little like those Spring Breakers…

I’ll mix sports and some piece of the tale about making Ivan Marquez, former commisioner of the EIVA (Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) and Concordia College Athletic Director-legend  the coach-person he became, because he DIDN’T go back to Puerto Rico when we both had to retreat to New York from Tampa in 1983.

My claim to fame was disabusing him, by raining my good jump shot on him time after time, of the idea he could fit back into his old ways of league basketball in Santurce, PR, because he recognized, “If I can’t stop THIS guy from getting to the hole or shooting 3s, that’s not an option.”

My  recently turned 86-year old Mom in a nearby senior living community in Charlotte – locked down two weeks ago, and no Sundays in packed churches in any near future – is definitely safe, my best bud from college and forever, I don’t know.

TV sports are all repeats now, so…

I watched the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup, Christian Laettner still made “The Shot” in that classic 104-103 game against Kentucky, and I’m sure to see Flutie make that incredible throw again soon, but since there’s no new sports happening, I’ll offer a couple personal athletic considerations in place of TV.

Ivan and I went to the first pro beach volleyball tournament outside of the Southern Cal scene, held in Clearwater, FL. We got included in the judging for best bikini at one point, but there were a *bunch* of people sitting in on that. I’ve kept the typewritten original for ITS SPORTS! since 1982, think of it as a historical document, at least for that new sportswriter.

Yes, Karch Kiray was there, and won the Jose Cuervo-sponsored event.

Ivan’s analysis stuck with me: Unless there was a LOT of $$$ (which proved not a problem) going into beach volleyball, whether the stars of the California lifestyle would travel well was the question. He was also the guy who years later suggested scoring every point in volleyball to appropriate collegiate icons, because time-wise, long side-out games weren’t “TV friendly” like all the other NCAA championships.

Because of Ivan, I have the BEST hockey story, involving EJ McGuire – who became VP of NHL Souting, and died in 2011 of a cancer so rare, they don’t even have a slogan – but I knew as the cool as hell coach of the men’s team at Brockport State (NY). In the most generous of terms, that made us contemporaries, as I coached the Womens Hockey Club all of four games, before we ran out of bodies.

Those guys were tight, and I needed green jerseys for a game against Ithaca College – which we wound up whuppin’ 8-2, a week after they scored an empty net goal with :02 left to beat us 3-1 – so Ivan asked EJ after Friday practice, and he says, “Sure. Couple of you guys, give Glenn your jerseys for the girls.”

I chucked those jerseys in an equipment bag, and didn’t think about them again until we were in the locker room pre-game. As I started tossing them out, the girls were “Oh God, they’re cold, wet, stinking!” I said, put ’em on, we have to tape numbers on the back.”

Ithaca had 20 skaters in identical uniforms, skates, helmets with cages. The game was at Cornell’s Lynah Arena, my brother Steve brought my folks and aunt, uncle, cousin to my game before his JV basketball game. My feet didn’t touch the ice going over to shake the other coach’s hand after a HUGE victory.  There’s more, trust me, but my only win as coach.

author-sharp dressed man#1 for me and most, a championship

1981 Upstate Rugby Championship, beating arch rival Knicks in OT penalty kicks in semis. First time in 13 years!

We were the ‘B’ side entry, wound up having 6-7 guys from other teams play with us, what they call “rugby whores” (you give them a jersey, they do whatever you want). It was all about lights out defense – we didn’t give up any scores after first half game one (of three games on first day), then until last play of game against Knicks.

One of our guys punched somebody right in front of ref. They made a penalty kick, we made two in OT to win. That ‘B’ side only lost once all year. (That’s right Skip, we bad.)

Toughest opponent

Everybody needs someone to compete against (Brady-Manning, Yankees-Red Sox) and brother Dave was my toughest opponent, especially when he got lots bigger in college. Barely 6′ and could dunk.

Best 1-1 athletic moment, splitting tennis and late night hoops victories in a test of macho and his leg brace. I moved him all over the court to win, then he shot outrageously, *one parking lot light “over there” in the DARK, at a hoop he’d never seen before* to kill me in hoops.  I’m laughing at how he had to suck it up around wife Donna, pretend his leg wasn’t in a world of hurt for a week.

Other biggie in sports – Best guy to make a competetive bet with – pays off.  We “had a Wimbledon,” meaning if it takes five sets to have a winner, we go five sets, AND he said he’d take me in straight sets. Dave was kind of a beast to pass at net coming in behind a good bending serve, but I chipped-blocked a ton of those serves back on his feet coming in, and he didn’t put many away, so I took the first two sets.

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One of regular spots to shoot, a lot of good rim action, like a home court should be.

He wants to go double or nothing, case of Mich Light and $20, “Do you want the bet or not?” Sure…and I took him out.

Case of beer and $$ was at bottom of attic stairs before I came down for breakfast. 

Much as beer drinking is glorified, at a personal level, for me, it still counts to know you’re drinking what someone else paid for because you were “better.”

***

Oh, shooting on Saturday. I tore it up in two selfie games of 21, first time in a while I haven’t gone back to 15 like three or four times because I missed my “and one.”

Between some early afternoon raking and that, I believe I got a little sun. So that’s at least a *piece* of a pretty good day, right?

Cold beer with tortolini and some of best sauce and meatballs I’ve made in a while, its a regular Saturday… kind of. Whatever we can do to stay a little more relaxed, doing it by ourselves, that’s the deal in the here and now.

Just FYI – I consider myself informed and willing to do the obvious (wash hands, stay home), I have Skype interviews scheduled Monday and Tuesday, but no, I’m not going anywhere for a while  especially “just because.”

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Agape -The taking care of those we love, Mom still loves pretty flowers

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Mom isn’t a Leap Baby, she’s a March 1-ster, but we called her 86th on Sunday “birthday,” and celebrated in common with Steve’s (62!!) at dinner the week before.

Having often opined that other three bros can fight for the wood-working title, handling the creative aspect of flower arrangements turned into some extra Mom joy getting spread around.

Mom’s favorite is daffodils, so that’s finally available for thoughtfulness, and there always has to be a rose.

Dad was great with flowers, and Mom still knows she likes them, so its a little agape, a Greek word I learned from a commercial, about being of service,”the highest form of love, charity.” 

Mom was a little weak with holding on today, commented about how far she’d walked, was half-stepping slower than usual, and that glass of wine probably contributed to being so tired mid-afternoon, but the flowers, ahhh, the flowers. 

Gotta give a shout out to the younger nurse at Carmel Hills who found a nice clean vase while I rummaged for a second one for Mom, and put a bucket worth on display at the nurses station. She was cool on knowing-telling anyone who wanted a pretty flower was welcome to it.

Personally, my Dad is thought of while taking care of his girl. Simple stuff still counts, like flowers anytime, as far as Mom’s concerned. Agape, you can look it up.

Mom’s been on assisted living side a year and a half now, and its good to know our elders are being treated right. Elder care will continue to be part of any national picture, including us Boomers, OK? but the day to day living, that isn’t political. Mothers birthdays, being the good son with flowers, that stuff is still personally important.

At church and having a donut with people afterwards, the promise of spring in Carolina blue sky, sunshine, and faked out trees already bloomed, she’s a happy camper.

We didn’t shake most hands or have the chalice available this week, that seems a reasonable precaution healthcare-wise, a word to the wise. We’ll see how often is seems reasonable to put Mom in what has become a very popular time (10:45) and crowded situation. She is the most vulnerable, apparently not the ton of kids she watches while having a juice-donut.

Our groups annual Fish Fry (#33?) is still on for the 13th. We usually serve over 600, we’ll see how things work out.

I might be doing a lot more take-out serving, the success of our late-January pierogi dinner in that area was an indication of how  people feel about supporting our popular community events. Our Men’s Club has an excellent reputation for food and friendship, and yes, a full cafeteria of people, often with a line waiting for seating, is something to consider at this point in healthcare.

I’m already a part of the remote work force, and deaths or not, there simply isn’t going to be a lock down of 100 million Americans.  Strap it on America, and lets not be stupid or outrageously afraid of this.

We didn’t shake or use chalice in church, that seems reasonable.

“Locking down” 100 million ain’t happening, but wash your hands, use YOUR sanitizer, even if that doesn’t appear to be strong enough to matter.

And to-go service, I’m not kidding, that might be an option people really buy into. You won’t be able to hear the band at home though, and Don’t forget the clam chowder. 

 

Practical communication makes a point – for politics, pierogis, poker, and pooches

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While his destroying three sleeping pads by tearing them apart and distributing the insides like this was uncool, getting into my salad bowl required direct messaging.

Perhaps I’m working the P’s a little hard, but historically its one of the things (along with Q’s) we’re supposed to pay attention to.

The point is, whether you’re a communications specialist, content creation writer, blogger, or pet owner, its legitimate to be aware of how any messages are coming through for the intended parties.

While his pushing a bowl around the kitchen like Snoopy, or positioning himself near the front door for immediate petting works for CharlieToo, the swat with a folded newspaper was a simple, hopefully received and understood message I sent yesterday.

Yes, that set off some loud “messaging” with my brother, but I didn’t need to hear about a beagle’s acute sense of smell (again). I’d left the room for thirty seconds to get a beverage, and returned to find several spinach leaves outside the bowl, left well away from the edge of the kitchen table. My message to both was I wasn’t allowing such behavior with my food, and if the bro needed to get discipline classes for his dog, I could still handle some baseline corrections right then.

Poker night and commitment

Having decided to restart Hold ’em poker nights with two subsets of friends, notices were sent to twenty guys about the timing, BYOB and chili situation, cost ($20 to start, re-buys, and chip-up), and directions embedded. All information, starting three weeks before the event, was sent by e-mail and followed up with by text several times.

Two days after the stated deadline for confirmation, there were only four “can’t make it” responses, which is when my ‘no-go’ decision was made.

One ‘yes’ indicated he’d pick up an outlier (who had bailed), one said (at pierogi dinner Friday) he’d come, but I’d already decided to wait and try again next month. One was upset he’d driven by the house – and left three phone messages – without knowing it was canceled, although he hadn’t confirmed when we worked two nights on the prep and pierogi dinner.

While statistically that’s *about* a 30% response, the reality is most similar events will die without a predetermined level of positive commitment. This was easy to track, doing so with blog results is what makes it a business.

Pierogi pickups, oompah! band, and networking

For the first two hours of our group’s second hugely successful pierogi dinner, I worked the take out table, and unfortunately, once I’d gotten through a first pan of those slathered in butter Polish delicacies filled with cheese and potato, and fried onions aplenty, there was a period when the product didn’t come regularly enough to diminish the line of customers.

Although I sent messages with group members who came by, only drips and drabs came though for about half an hour – and somehow it wasn’t a problem

The great part of communications came with the realization that the 15 people standing in line understood I’d done what I could. Every single one was happy when the pans started flowing regularly and they got hot, tasty containers of food – including sauerkraut, garlic bread, kielbasa – and some had never tried a pierogi before!

Did giving the last cookie to one little girl, just before another tray appeared, work out righteously? Yep, it showed we cared, as did giving a piece of kielbasa to anyone who wanted to munch it waiting in line.

Doing my usual “schmoozing” around the tables a little later, it was great to learn that everyone appreciated the evening at all levels – not a single cross word, even though some had waited in a line around the cafeteria before getting served and seated.

When asked, “Did everyone get enough to eat?” smiles and “Great job, you guys!” and testimonials about how many of our (St. Gabriel Men’s Club) other community feedings they’d attended were gratifyingly glowing. Okay, “free beverages” and dancing to a lederhosen-garbed oompah band might have a little to do with that glow, but a $36 family price works wonders, too.

The best communication for me though? The very last couple I talked with went 20191214_200810exceptionally well. She was a physical therapist, so we discussed my two year old knee replacement, and her husband had done a little knocking around for two years before establishing himself as a management efficiency expert with restaurants. When I gave him my card, and explained some of what CDTalent Enterprises did writing-wise, he asked if I’d tried using a particular agency and recruiter, who had kept him busy during his knock around days.

THAT is the essence of networking, finding a commonality and helping each other with additional contacts. If you’re still worried about just talking to someone at a gathering, networking doesn’t have to be in a suit with your name plastered on a lapel.

POLITICS

For what its worth, Trump’s impeachment trial starts today, and IMHO, a *lot* more people will be dissatisfied with how that’s handled than how my lack of pierogies Friday night affected them. While I heard one of our guys pontificating that, “He’s going to be re-elected, you guys are wrong, case closed!” I’ve learned that its impossible to get a reasonable message through to some people, and walking away from situations is the best way to handle negative communications.

Unfortunately, the option of swatting them with a folded newspaper probably won’t get the intended message through.

Christmas Thoughts for Panthers 2019 are a mixed bag for ‘fruitcake’ 5-9

Would Christian McCaffrey tell you, “Honestly, this ugly sweater is going right to the bottom of any drawer I can find space,” if you’d gifted him so? Doubtful, but there’s no reason to believe he’s doing anything less than giving each game his best effort. As a team, there’s also no reason to believe otherwise, even if the defense was sliced and diced by Seattle, dropping the Panthers to 5-9.

Fruitcake season? Just because you hear someone say “It’s not that bad” doesn’t mean you want any more of it. (Gonna have to use that one again…)

Everyone will point to McCaffrey as a bright point in a sub-par season, but holy moley! DJ Moore has 86 catches for 1,174 (4 TD) in his second year. Nobody is “happy” with six straight losses, and yes, eyes goes naturally to Kyle Allen’s 15 INTs (and 3,027) yards as a replacement for Cam Newton after two games .

It wouldn’t be any glaring sign of giving up if 3rd round pick Will Grier got a chance at QB the last two games.

Its pretty certain the Panthers have had a look at Allen after twelve games. Rookie name of Gardner Minshaw II did fine in Jax’ville, its not like they’re clearing the bench to give everyone a couple plays to consider over the winter, but a time when Panther fans will hear about LOTS of changes.

KEY PLAYERS

Doesn’t everyone have a favorite nephew, whose exploits you like to remind others about? McCaffrey is obviously as productive as anyone you can think of, and if he gets 186 yards receiving the next two games, “The Legend-Weapon that is Cee Mac” will be firmly anchored.

Like the kid who demands Santa’s “sled” in the commercial, Dad saying, “He was pretty good this year,” is very legitimate. C-Mac needs those 186 yards to hit 1,000/1,000 level, so I hope that item gets wrapped up real nice and arrives, FedEx or whatever. You’ve heard only two guys have done that, so expect some serious effort to deny him.

Speaking of favorites, congratulations to Drew Brees, a GOAT of GOATS. *That* is a team needing one LESS maximum negative a play in the clutch at some point, but they’ll play an extra inspirational bit harder for that/Drew’s championship this year. Topper on the tree stuff.

Most would agree the O-line has done its bit. Despite constant churn at positions with injuries, McCaffrey doesn’t get all those yards himself. Allen does hold onto the ball at times, so while the line has given up quite a few sacks, eliminating throwing errors (one hopes), although his mistakes, including fumbles, have clearly hurt offensive production.

Curtis Samuel got some different looks in the Seattle game, and using him as a runner like they do with Moore is always intriguing, because he’s a bolt coming at defenders. If he continues to learn how to evade, he could become a devastating slot receiver. Whether Ian Thomas is able to take the tight end job after an Olsen retirement is open to question.

Joey Slye has made seven 50-yard plus field goals this year, but he also missed some kicks that cost games. Overall, do you return cheap gifts and maybe stick with a higher priced version, like a $17 million kicker? Ahhhh! Something has gotten into the egg nog…

The Newton question is the big package hidden in the closet. He may have everyone’s good thoughts for recovery, the question is whether his injury and style – as a passer, all he has is a fastball – and price tag work for 2020.

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Panther fans won’t be sure what they’re getting for 2020, but ‘D’ will need to look less undressed.

The Turner offense certainly put certain players (Moore, McCaffrey) on a very strong path, just like it was designed to, and with a relative newbie at the controls to boot. Newton was +10 pts. over his career passing percentage last year before the shoulder really crimped his production, is he really-really going to be “okay” (you know the commercial) when games count again?

If someone doesn’t pay for Allen to attend some serious camp committed to cutting down his turnovers (13 fumbles), its because he’s getting that proverbial hunk of coal on the way out.

Yes, there needs to be something small but appreciable in the “Running back, besides Christian M.” under the tree for Panther fans to rest assured he won’t be toast in two more years.

DEFENSE WAS LIT UP LIKE CHRISTMAS TREE

If Mr. Tepper keeps Eric Washington as Defensive Coordinator after the way the front was repeatedly gouged for yardage all year, it would be a massive surprise. While the sack total is back up to historical levels, and Kuechly is #3 in the league with 131 tackles (17 against Seattle), Chris Carson went for 133 yards and 2 TDs last week.

Stats: The Panthers have given up 386 points (27.6 ppg) thus far, ahead of only Miami20181223_220242 (29.6 ppg). Pitiful Cincinnati (325, 23.2) was #22: Cleveland and Indy were middle of the pack (311 pts/22.2 ppg); New England (157, 11.2 ppg leads the league).

In 2018, the Panthers started giving up 100 yard rushers regularly, and it hasn’t stopped. It was suggested that opposing QBs didn’t mind throwing against their secondary either, and an improved rush didn’t lessen effectiveness going long. Whether the 3-4 alignment or standard 4-3 is better will require examining the potential of 2nd, 3rd year players like Brian Burns and Marquis Haynes.

Eric Reed was every bit the hitter they wanted at safety and run support, but a lot of people (not just Falcons, Saints; Jax had a receiver get 2-60 yard gains out of 383 total v. Panthers) seemed to be running free far too often. Give Dante Jackson credit for “make up speed” and no lack of confidence, but even when he gets there, people are still making catches. With expectations that he will blossom into the A-1 cover guy Panthers obviously need in 2020, lets hope the Big Boy pants under the tree fit right, or he acquires ‘sticky’ vs. anything figgy by next season.

Shaq Thompson is the speed linebacker many expected him to be with more playing time, but Dontari Poe doesn’t appear to  be a run stopper by any $9 million definition, and I didn’t hear Butler’s name often, that probably can’t stand either. Mario Addison might be trade bait after another decline in sacks.

While Fewell got the nod for interim coach, as the coach of secondary, he might not be around for New Years either.

If some Panther stockings are still hung by the chimney with care after New Year’s, look for when “Bonus $$ for on roster – (X date)” about decision time. James Bradbury’s stocking has something in it, hopefully a situation he can share with Ross Cockrell, who had a quietly good year after a broken leg kept him out all of 2018. Most probably its just a thank you for keeping things respectable with most receivers.

Nobody wants to see Greg Olsen ride off into the sunset (with or without a Man of Year award), it will be up to him and family to decide whether 2019 was enough.

Philosophically and realistically speaking, its going to be an uncomfortable winter for Panther fans. Mr. Tepper has big plans for his soccer franchise, but his NFL franchise will need considerable tending too.

 

Knee replacement turns two, and ‘Obamacare’ is still law of the land

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Still proud of myself for ‘re-purposing’ the bicycle seat that served me for 28 years as a wedding gift.

Having started with Affordable Care Act coverage when legally mandated in 2015, I’m proud to announce that the replacement knee that made me physically whole again after a dozen years as ‘a gimp’ and restored my personal confidence levels, turned two yesterday.

A physical game changer at 60, replacement was the most anticipated gift I’d ever received.

After asking my doctor if I could possibly get the surgery in December, 2017, the scheduling person said, “You’re in luck. Two cancellations means one spot has opened up. The doctor is booked on the 18th, Christmas is the 25th, and after that its a new program year. You can have surgery this Monday, but you have to tell me,” and she literally looked at her watch, “now.”

After a difficult economic 2016 as a new real estate broker, getting a knee that was totally shot at the end of 2017  fixed as a long-term negative was far from a given. In the final accounting, the numbers turned out super-doable: “Obamacare” meant my maximum out of pocket – on an insurance breakdown with a $28,700 top line was $600.  The $20 a session for physical therapy – seven weeks, twice a week – was money extremely well spent.

Thankfulness has abounded since, and I have no reason to listen to anyone knock the ACA. This past weekend I popped off an 18 mile ride without any protest or strain from “Lefty,” and while a second day of Christmas tree selling brought a minor ache, two beers watching the LSU game took care of that.

I’m a happy camper about the knee, and have said so in every survey they sent me.

Rehabbing is definitely a challenge, nothing fun

When you catch a major break like the timing and cost factors I had, you owe the Universe your very best effort in return. Whatever other exercises Amanda and Becka came up with, knowing how important a factor an ERMI was in my progress, I worked the hell out of it.

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A significant extra from having Dr. Robert McBride (OrthoCarolina) as my surgeon was getting that ERMI (Extended Range of Motion Improvement) machine as a 30 day ‘loaner.’ It’s not kidding to say, with your heel in a foot-scoop, “You pull the pneumatic lever until the bend is uncomfortable, then give it another little tug, and keep that position for ten minutes.”

After taking a break, the system calls for coming back for ten more minutes and doing that twice a day. In physical therapy for knees, they quantify your progress in range of degrees, and at least for me, clicking that lever another line or three while in the ERMI saddle and channel-surfing hit an “I got this” machismo.

I believe that *every*little*bit*more*I*do* goes directly to helping the strength and functions of my knee-quad-whatever. (What I told my PT person, Amanda, often, and strangers in grocery stores even more frequently)

Its a process, and goals help

My initial, somewhat whimsical goal for being “better” involved planting my left foot without pain and being able to hit a tree with a snowball. The last time I’d tried on a trip to NY, I literally couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Charlotte doesn’t get snow that often, so it was a touch of luck that a decent skim appeared in late February to help fulfill that “leveling up” affirmation.

By the end of May, with the help of regular, mostly flatter 8-10 mile bicycle rides for training, I could handle my favorite urban route, one that features a three-mile stretch with several long rises about the mid-point. Thumping a forehand up the alley in tennis as an opponent flails at its passage still hasn’t been put on the official scoreboard, but I’ve killed a nearby wall.

In a captain’s choice golf event before Memorial Day 2018, I played amazingly well off the tees, STRAIGHT drives that located well and allowed better players to shoot for higher risk options. For years that knee clicked and wobbled at exactly the point I settled into an optimal swing position, which was more than just distracting. When my balance was restored, wow! Without that constant niggling, my swing came through smoothly.

That old joke about, “Will I be able to play the piano after surgery, I never could before,” that’s what solid drives felt like.

My bike ride is a working antique, a 12-speed Miyata with gears on the up-angle from my pedals instead of in the middle of the handlebars. I bought ‘Clyde’ for $125 in 1990, refurbished it for $185 many years ago, and finally bought a more ergonomically friendly seat vs. the slab of leather (see photo at top) that lasted 28 years. Riding Clyde was a saving grace, what allowed my staying in shape because it was really the only physical thing that *didn’t* abuse the knee, and biking is an almost year-round possibility in Charlotte.

Post-replacement and therapy, I honestly never expected to become the long-distance shooting threat in hoops I sort of recall being a dozen years before, when I started needing a bracier brace. Having stopped playing even 4-on-4 games six years ago – I sure didn’t want to be the guy *anybody* can drive on and they want to guard – I just wanted to move naturally. I continued catch and shoot hoops by myself over the years, but having to WALK after misses, that didn’t really square with the inner athlete.

Not having to skip across the street so I didn’t get run over made having that knee replacement a simple decision.

This October, after declining to play the previous week, I tried “going easy” for a short game to seven, shooting 4-5 with three long shots, and an assist. I’ve been back four times since, even though my doctor says, “You’re playing basketball?” with concern in his voice. (No sweat doc, I’m playing with old, broken down guys…) I resisted for over a year, I swear I know my limitations, but running after misses because I can, is another reason for thanks.

When doing a content copy writing gig for a CBD manufacturer early last year, I did several articles about how CBD’s effect on the endocannaboid system (ECS) can help with anxiety and depression.  Other research, regarding physical activity as a good overall tool on those fronts, echoed a personal mantra, and that Forever Young Boomer inside me does seem to respond well to CBD’s “focus factor,” having both going for me is terrific.

In my humble opinion, when your moment comes to pull the trigger, do it. The physical therapy is going to hurt, but do it – and then do a little bit more. Happy second birthdays depend on it.

“Real Writers” still best option, AI or 1 million chimps on computers creativity aside

 

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Artificial intelligence and computers can do amazing things based on previous analysis, but can they imagine a perfect David without that?

After being fed a trillion-gazillion bytes of previous human blood, sweat, and tears involved in artwork or literature, Artificial Intelligence is becoming/has begun to be judged capable of original production.  Professionally speaking, that sounds more reasonable than a million (or 10 million?) chimpanzees on keyboards knocking out even a couple verses of Bill Shakespeare-worthy prose by accident.

At the current time, I’m a way better Writing alternative.

Without going deeply into whether its a good idea or not, the AI future has been coming almost 70 years,  and the chimps haven’t produced anything noteworthy.  Having read on LinkedIn about AI “knowing” how to make hiring decisions though, that’s another belief I can’t get on board with.

Having a “presence” – Something that might push a magic button for a potential employer of my talents and result in a tah dah! moment HAS to be better, because its worked that way before. Many sites still don’t recognize MSOffice includes Word, or journalism as somehow lacking “media and communications.”

Case in point, the recently concluded series SUITS.

Would the Zen of Harvey Specter and Mike Ross coming together on the basis of – well, a busted drug deal – and Mike’s statistical memory out-dueling Harvey’s ego on trivia be possible based on AI? I think not.

Far above the vast area between accidental genius and synthesized, analytical material becoming heart-breaking romance, discovering the answer to someone’s pain about any number of factors is what INTERVIEWING is about, and where writers of all stripes wear the sales hat.

Sports writing is easier than CBD content creation

Of course there are the numbers, the stats, the win-loss conclusion and opinions of the result, but sports have their own voice, and quotes are usually the most compelling part. If we have or haven’t seen the event, can you appreciate how a journalist presents it, accurately and colorfully?

That’s part of what interviewing does for “client voice.” Putting them together, with the proliferation of websites and blogs that require on-going production, is what long-form informational blogging has become.  Although not as direct as words from a winning coach, corporate voice is THE voice.

From high school journalism on, the need to set the hook with readers in the first paragraph was considered paramount. Now its the click value of the headline, because people scan vs. read.

Relative to value, while Charlotte pays above the national rates (as reported by Indeed, Glassdoor, Payscale), its often a case of job title-category being a determinant.

Copy writers @ $26.38/hr, content writers,  and writers generally are close to $50k (Payscale says $47k is 10% above national avg., Glassdoor pegs avg. @ $55k), while content creation, including editors and social media types, are in the middle-upper teens per hour – Indeed puts these North Carolina rates at 15% below national averages.

Obviously there are ranges.  ‘Freelancers’ is a relative term ($22.46/hr., Payscale), tutors average $23/hr. (I usually bill at $30) and technical writers lead the overall pack at $32/hour. While descriptions for all have terms in common (white papers, blogs, SEO), writers seem to involve more interfacing with other creatives. Content creation is often  list-cicles or amalgamated research and rehashing as a group effort, with the focus on Google positioning.

*Everyone* wants copy/blogs/leadership thought that “meets and exceeds customer expectations.”

Technical Writing

“Leadership Thoughts” style has become a strong part of long-form informational blogging, and contrasting two previous projects with a recent sketchy client description highlights the importance of interviewing.

According to the Thumbtack lead, the client had an ESL (English Second Language) situation, and to his credit, knew he needed some expertise to make a business proposal sound right.

In hearing the project was “between 2-10,000 words” represented an awful lot of territory to offer overall pricing. Informing the client my blogs are often 1200-1500 words, so 10,000 was a lot, is a concrete example of both parties knowing what the project entails. Whether this business plan was going to include enough budget for technical writing was also a consideration.

jensenprocedOn the other hand, writing procedures for Parts Ordering and Returns was for “guys in the pits” using industrial laundry equipment (driers, folders, belted delivery systems, timing), not front office people. The primary point was well-defined, especially how plucking a part off a machine and reading the number was actually the third best option when ordering.

Two pages of specific information only took 1,045 words – and fact it included addressing issue of returns, so extra junk didn’t clog up the back dock area – was gravy.

Interviews as sales calls

Because client-facing verbal understanding is at the core of all successful work interactions, my mantra is that the Q&A to be most effective is always about determining those factors most important to clients, not an interrogation. Good information makes for better decisions.

During several other career stages, interviews were more accurately sales calls, where I was providing the information aspect, and how other people reacted was a measurable outcome.  “Interviewing” with the lawyer of someone whose property had a billboard I represented was another slice of interpretation, most would consider that “negotiation” though.

In scholastic fundraising, there was essentially 40 minutes to build rapport, present information and possibilities, (hopefully) get the green lights and signature that meant putting it on a calendar.  Most interviews focused on “fixing” a sponsor’s group problem in tough economic times.

That (fix some pain) remains the central theme for all kind of ‘gigs’ now, and Writers understand that every RFP (request for proposal) type of content we send should  be intended as a statement of what we bring to the table.

Without denigrating “foreign competition” on the content front – because getting ideas across in writing is not bound by location or time zones – language differences when I’m just trying to make a point with outsourced service operations are multiplied in complexity when clarifying a corporate tone or voice.

ESL clients require extra attention, and grammatically and professionally, it still seems like some corporate material has been put through a Google translator called “English” that comes off as stilted in “American.” That might be where AI can makes inroads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What JFK Meant with “Instead, ask what you can do for your country”

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When Rep. Adam Schiff gaveled the impeachment proceedings into recess last Thursday while invoking the late Elijah Cummings, “We’re better than this,” its my humble opinion that plenty of Americans would want a family member to conduct themselves as honorably, in such high pressure moments, as the US diplomatic personnel proved they could.

Many regarded President John F. Kennedy’s election as the second coming of Camelot, a time of exceptional promise. That cold, cold day of his Inauguration in 1961 couldn’t be more clearly juxtaposed to the shameless conduct described in the testimony about the Trump-Ukraine scandal, with tentacles that seem to have ensnared everyone it touched.

Kennedy’s January 16, 1961 speech was 14 minutes long, and that was the only part where he spoke about public service. The rest was primarily international, the Cold War. Vietnam was nowhere near a US problem – the French had that domino held steady, right?

They did their jobs, to the T

And yes, dammit, if the Lt. Colonel respectfully asks to be addressed by his rank, that shouldn’t be a three minute exercise in linguistics. A Ukranian immigrant at the age of four, he happens to have an identical twin, also a Lt. Colonel, who also serves in the White House.

That officer was on the call because of his expertise, including and especially, language. At NO point does that invite negative questioning,  any quibbling about loyalty from those pursuing nefarious political ends.

Should we be more in awe of Dr. Hill for stating that, having grown up poor, her working class accent – what most probably think most Brits sound like – would have limited her options dramatically in the UK, or should we salute her concise flaying of a GOP talking point (Ukraine, not Russian interference in 2016 elections) as repeatedly giving credence to such a false narrative and something Russia loves to hear?

Oh, third one – You do know that her expertise, literally, is because she wrote the book on it, right? “It” being Vladimir Putin. What, they didn’t mention that on FOX?

Powerful a witness as Sondhold became, was the Saturday Night Live! skit even better?

These people knew their words, and having them answer to counsel’s, “Right?” sure wasn’t automatic. As Dr. Hill and Ambassador Taylor stated, they were ‘fact witnesses,’ what they heard or knew about a situation, nothing about guilt regarding impeachment. Even if it was clarification of the timing tag of an e-mail as being sent local or Ukranian time, it was brought into agreement with known facts being discussed before saying, “Correct.”

If David Nolan wasn’t precise in showing how Amb. Sondland held a cell phone away from his ear while Trump was talking EXTRA loudly, is the operative word still, “Get over it?” When *every*single*one* of them takes notes constantly, documents situations with time and attendees, that is what a paper trail that’s meant to be followed looks like.

Oh, State Department has all the notes, because its government property? Sorry Amb. Sondland… Oh, you actually have e-mails that show everyone was in the loop? Good to know. Without taking anything away from Amb. Sondhold’s ability to both nurse a cold cup of coffee and deliver A-B-C, 1-2-3 points about whom “everyone” was, it was legitimate for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to note that his markedly different testimony was a third try at better describing things he recalled.

For those who think former NSC advisor John Bolton should  be as courageous as those who already testified, yep.

JFK and a character moment

Kennedy called out to a generation, and despite the tear United States down the middle issue of Vietnam, we – that would be the Boomers, ok – also made major strides in civil rights, and both put people on, and got them back from the moon.

Its not cherry-picking to use that event, it was a biggie.

Maybe ask someone about their time in the Peace Corp. Was there world respect for all those idealistic young Americans, striving to change the world somehow? You betcha. Those kids from Stoneman-Douglas are turning eighteen, ready to vote. Who wants them besides Beto, anti-gun marches and a huge percentage of America agreeing about it?

Yes, for sure, ask a young person what they think about the last three weeks over a fire pit on Thanksgiving. Learn what other people think – question authority (especially if it doesn’t pass the sniff test). Those diplomatic personnel who put their careers on the line, you KNOW you’d want them in the foxhole when doing whatever was necessary and right had to happen.

Some call it heroic,  but you certainly can’t ignore it. Nor should you disparage it.

Taylor-Kent Ukraine testimony was content that counted, worthy of attention by all

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While all the heavy digging at the top of the street won’t look like a police station for quite a while, what we heard and saw from two diplomats yesterday became an unimpeachably important first step.

Understanding that mega-reams of copy have already been generated throughout the U.S., Ukraine, and rest of the world, over six hours yesterday, two U.S. diplomats presented precisely the sort of content many, many people were tingling with anticipation to know. If their testimony was the elementary start to a long campaign, those who hoped putting faces to specific and negative information (for some) would make a difference, were rewarded.

Compared to repetitive commercials or ‘witch hunt’ comments about a topic that many have almost given up listening to – and its NOT a four year old investigation, its the start of *another,* necessary one – those straight ahead, well-respected professionals held our attention most of the day.

While having an element of ‘homer’ cheering for the Charlotte Panthers after an intense loss against the Green Bay Packers Sunday was legitimate, over three hours of watching this first public session of impeachment hearings only disappointed because I’d missed a LOT of points being scored during the earlier hours.

The Prez said he didn’t watch any of it, so hopefully someone recorded it, because while everyone knows he won’t read even important stuff, yesterday was about content well worth hearing.

A sports analogy

The Minnesota Golden Gophers football team had lost 43 games in a row to Penn State up to last weekend, a string of negatives that seems unbearable, and many Americans felt this country had endured a similar series of thumpings under Trump.

On Saturday, Minnesota kept its unbeaten season (9-0) going, and rose to #8 in the polls with a 31-26 victory, with Gopher QB Tanner Morgan going 18/20 (90%) for *339 yards*, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His top receiver, Rashod Bateman, had seven catches for 203 yards and a TD, Penn State’s QB had three interceptions, and that’s really all you need to know for a righteous analogy.

To cop GOP interrogator Steve Caster’s best line during the impeachment hearings:

“It’s not as outlandish as it could be.”

That he tried to get more than simple agreement from Ambassador Taylor on “not as outlandish” brought a smile and head shake that spoke volumes.

There’s an old sports line that goes, “We knew they’d beat us at some point, I just never expected to be around when that happened.” Both Penn State boosters, who were campaigning for a spot in the year-end NCAA Final Four, and Trump’s enablers in Congress now have the remainder of this Fall (and 2020) to contemplate the pop in the chops that always comes as a huge surprise from an underdog.

Talking about “What happens if…” those Nittany Lions end the season with just one loss, much like LSU beating arch-rival Alabama, will be the subject of much scrutiny. No matter who else they beat, their aura of being too powerful has been trashed by teams that decided enough was enough of losing.

Of course, that was only the first day of these hearings, and if there were two surprising “plays” along the way, one was Ambassador Bill Taylor, Jr. stating that on July 26th, a staffer (David Holmes, counselor for political affairs in Kiev embassy) overheard a phone conversation between European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland – on an unprotected cell phone, while at dinner in a restaurant – and Trump.

How many regular people KNOW that’s the worst kind of exposure?

Call it an interception, but Trump apparently talked so loudly about “investigations” that Holmes will now be deposed behind closed doors on Friday.

Possibly the most incredible part of Day One was the recognition by many that the Democrats, like Minnesota, remained disciplined and did nothing to harm themselves all day long.  For the jaded among us, the Dems not forming a circular firing squad with the wealth of information they already had is worth mentioning.

Congratulations and sincere thanks to those dedicated public servants who stood straight and tall at a dark point in our current political history. Your country appreciates it, possibly even as much as those many others whose service and deaths we remembered on Veterans Day.

 

That one, crucial, must-have piece that moves projects forward

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I might have thought I had problems with a camera, but Mike was the boss with heat all around him before Oyster Roast.

Before packing up the laptop  and sending it to Memphis over a camera not functioning – and recognizing I’m sometimes behind the curve tech-wise – there was recently a quantity of angst over getting a specific video off my phone and attached to a Google document that needed to be sent for a proposal.

After performing the operation three times myself – then tapping Librarian #1’s understanding for forty minutes – I’d expected a $99 visit with the Microsoft people would move things from “Does not recognize camera” error message to productive asset again. Being able to move forward because I stayed on the problem until it was resolved, that’s what I call my Matt Damon in “The Martian” moments.

Sweating further delay regarding that proposal made the relief of getting some necessary help a moment worth sharing with others. Anyone who has been on group calls where a certain person – with the element that everyone is gathered to learn about – is late, knows both the feelings of frustration and relief.

Your patience factor definitely counts

Trust me, people who have dealt with someone who gets frantic about a computer snafu and wants to make it *their* problem too, probably won’t be gracious by a third time around. That two different library workers tried their darnedest, and eventually found an effective option, is also a (small) credit to submerging my often squeaky wheel style.

Journalistically and as a content creator, my expectation is that equipment should do what its supposed to – I require a keyboard and access to information. Getting many, many things in-out of electronic media daily, even as a realtor, the message was always, “Make sure your technology works.” The least gratifying thing I hear when enterprising a solution is, “Well, that should’ve worked.”

While “should’ve worked” is an affirmation that my being stymied was perhaps appropriate, it still involves a dammit! because its a sticking point unhandled.

Searching for help works best without extra attitude. Bitching about the inconvenience to you isn’t going to motivate others to provide answers or assistance. Getting to the point is like using your Elevator Speech, or that first paragraph in any article – give potential helpers a reason to keep listening, or maybe point you in a right-er direction.

After a steady extra examination with Librarian #2, the BINGO! moment came with his suggestion to utilize YouTube to download the phone, and copy the link from that into my document instead of Google Pictures/video.

After three previous attempts, bam! that simple option-change was The Right Piece, with the focus on getting a crucial detail handled a very real result. No telling how things roll now that I’ll have to use library for a couple weeks because I don’t have a backup at home, but I’m not scared they’ll consider me a dummy for asking why my machine doesn’t work.

FYI – Backed up and packed up

Sending 99% of everything a potential client asks for with position descriptions might not even be enough, so paying attention to details counts. That video I wanted so bad? It was :58 because the gig description said “No longer than 1:00 video.”

Reviewing the proposal, and recognizing some notes for a social media element hadn’t been turned into specific post samples. While stating the importance of getting that one, crucial piece handled, its always a good idea to check the details one last time.

While this unit goes into the box right after this blog, its contents have been backed up. Tomorrow I’ll go back to that refurbished library in SouthPark and thank Ed again.

Oh yeah, saying Thanks! is still a simple courtesy that makes helpers happy. My tutoring in reading and writing keeps a positive attitude about sharing expertise to carry forward, so there’s no reason not to send that outward when you’ve gotten the necessary results.