Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wahoo for the Windians!

            The streak is over, but the march to the pennant continues! The Indians have become the dominant team in baseball. Can they go all the way? Only time will tell, but fans in Northeast, Ohio have come to revel in the team-wide heroics that define this team. Let’s look at a few.

            We see the mastermind in the dugout, constantly chomping on his sunflower seeds. His humble demeanor masking the strategy going on in his head. He is a wizard with the players, bringing out the best in each of them. Perhaps the best moment to understand Tito is when he sent 21-year Francisco Mejia to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with a 23-game winning streak on the line. Some may question the wisdom of that decision, but Tito was less concerned about a winning streak and more concerned about developing a winning player. He understands talent and will take a gamble when he sees potential. In terms of the game, sometimes that gamble pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. But, in terms of player development, the gamble always pays off. Every player on the roster is playing to their potential. That starts at the top.

            Frankie continues to spank the ball—it’s going back deep, deep, deep, . . . it’s gone! When he came to Cleveland, we knew Lindor could lead with leather. Now, he’s developing into a potent power hitter and a great lead-off batter.

            When discussions arise about Cleveland’s pitching staff, the first name mentioned is Kluber. He is the Klubot and resistance is futile. However, it has been the development of the rest of the staff that has transformed them into a force of nature. Right before our eyes, Bauer and Clevinger are becoming aces. The road to the pennant is paved with pitching. The formula is usually: 2 aces, a dominant closer, several setup men, and solid pitching to fill in the gaps. The Indians may enter October with 4 aces, 2 dominant closers, and a bullpen filled with hard hurling setup and middlemen!
            We also have to give props to Bauer for his Mini Head baseballs. This is the type of fun that creates a great atmosphere—both for the fans and the players!

            The big man takes it deep—again! The Indians are playing better with his bat, and no doubt his presence in the locker room and on the field. We’ve also witnessed his efforts to help those harmed by Hurricane Harvey. He doesn’t just make this team better. He makes the world a better place. Welcome to Cleveland!

            When Ramirez hit five extra base hits in a game, no one in Cleveland was surprised. Jose is one of the most exciting offensive players in the game. The moment the ball leaves the bat, he’s looking to extend a single into a double, or a double into a triple. He’s also developed into a great fielder. What may be scary for every other team is that we’re not certain if Ramirez has peaked. He could get even better!

            Credit must go to the two men behind the plate—Gomes and Perez. The fans have come to expect their defense, their cannon throws to pickoff runners, and the way they work with the pitchers. But, these two have given us more—so much more. They’ve transformed the bottom of the lineup into a threat. Opposing pitchers simply can’t find an easy out anywhere in this Indians’ lineup.

            This kid has leather—lithe and lively! He may be the best defender in the Indians’ infield—and this is an infield stacked with leather. It seems every young player the Indians call up brings something fascinating to the field. The logical conclusion is that this organization is deep—from the minors all the way up, they have the management and developmental staff to bring the best!

            I could also refer to the parrot! EE is a veteran that brings experience and a big bat to this club. It’s also fun to watch fans dressing up in parrot uniforms. He is an anchor in the middle of the lineup!

            It may be more appropriate to use his nickname, Ajax. We’ve all heard of the cleaner that washes away grime, grease, and gunk. Ajax washes away homeruns! He had the catch. It’s likely the play of the year for baseball—maybe the play of the year for all of sports. It’s just another example of the excitement every player brings—night in and night out!

             Carlos goes deep! Again! Night after night he brings the bat. We are also watching him develop into a defensive diamond at first. Clevelanders stay up late at night arguing who should win the MVP. The obvious choice is Lindor, but then talk of Ramirez and Santana enter the mix. If only Santana could also play guitar. Would that be asking too much!
            There’s not much debate in Cleveland who should be the manager of the year. And, even less debate about the Cy Young. It should be Kluber! But next year, could several Indians hurler be in the race? Ah, that is worth a late-night argument.

            Of course, these are only a small sample of all the highlights. We have the 22-game winning streak. That should be enough, but we want more. We want the pennant, and this team has the tools to deliver!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Rhythm, Poetry, and Music

            Rhythm is a repeating pattern of sound. We hear rhythm everywhere—from the crashing waves of the ocean, to the hypnotic sound of a train, to the speech we hear in our daily lives. Rhythm is part of nature. Summer rises and leads to fall. Fall leads to winter, and then spring arrives. The sun rises and sets. We wake up; we go to sleep. Rhythm is so engrained into our spirits, minds, and experience, that we often don’t stop to think about it.
            Rhythm is found in nature, but it is also learned. As we learn to speak, we naturally learn rhythm. Take some time to listen to someone that doesn’t speak English as a native language. Even if every vowel and consonant resonates with perfect pronunciation, they still may be difficult to understand. Why? They have pronunciation, but they don’t have a rhythm our ear is accustomed to. Our native tongue shapes our experience and conditions us to be drawn to certain rhythmic patterns. When those patterns are missing, we find things jarring, and it requires extra effort to extrapolate meaning.
            In English certain syllables are given more or less emphasis. We generally have three variations in emphasis: loud, which is a stressed syllable; medium, which is a semi-stressed syllable; and soft, which is an unstressed syllable. Let’s consider the word, “harmony”. It is generally said:
            HAR         mon         ee
Obviously, the emphasis is being exaggerated, but when the emPHASis is on the wrong sylLABle things sound a bit wonky. We've grown used to a rhythmic pattern for familiar words, and when someone doesn't follow that pattern, we find the sound cacophonous.
            Let's consider a pattern of rhythm for a moment:
            DUM         cha         dum         cha
Say it! Yes, I'm serious! Now, take it and repeat it in a cycle:
            DUM         cha         dum         cha         DUM         cha         dum         cha
            DUM         cha         dum         cha         DUM         cha         dum         cha
            DUM         cha         dum         cha         DUM         cha         dum         cha
            DUM         cha         dum         cha         DUM         cha         dum         cha
This rhythmic cycle is the most common pattern of rhythm found in Western music. No doubt other cultures may produce different rhythm patterns. Ever eat at a Chinese restaurant? At my local Chinese establishment (with its addicting beef lo mein), when the lady takes your order, she then barks it back to the kitchen staff in Chinese. You can hear all the cooks barking back and forth in a speech that sounds foreign and jarring to my tender American ears. Why does it sound so jarring? Because the rhythm isn't what I'm used to! Can you recognize music that comes from the Orient? It has a certain sound, doesn't it? Part of this is the rhythm.
            Ever wonder why someone sounds a little pompous when they never use contractions and always use "he or she" instead of the ubiquitous "they"? It's because they are grammatically correct, but rhythmically challenged. It ain't right, but sometimes grammar and rhythm collide. "It ain't" has a different rhythm then "it is not", and often the "ain't" paints a better melody. Contractions also change the rhythm of a sentence, because they shorten things one syllable. One syllable doesn't sound like much, but consider:
            DUM         cha         dum         cha         DUM         cha         dum         cha
            DUM         cha         dum         cha         DUM         cha         dum         cha
            DUM     cha  cha        dum         cha         DUM         cha          dum        cha
            DUM         cha         dum         cha         DUM         cha         dum         cha
Oh, that hideous third line of rhythm!
            Do you happen to have a friend that likes to curse, and is also funny? You can be honest and tell me the truth. I'm only a blog, so I won't tell anyone:) Part of you may be thinking, "He shouldn't be saying those frickin-frackin words, that son of a blizzard!" Yet, part of you finds his colorful metaphors (with all those bleeping words and even his grammatically deficient sentence structures) not only appealing, but raucously hilarious! Why?
            Consider cursing for a moment. It's okay, I won't tell your mother. Cursing often involves short words or phrases that are rhythmic in nature. "The man who had sexual relations with my maternal parent" isn't as rhythmic as that, "MOTHER F, . . ." Well, you can fill in the rest! If you consider cursing from the standpoint of rhythm, curse words and phrases are a rhythmic Lego set that easily allows one to construct rhythmically powerful language.
            When building rhythm, it's often easier to use short, concrete words as opposed to long, abstract words. How often do you hear the word "exponentially" in a song? In Western music, the most common rhythm patterns are based on two, three, and four "syllables". Okay, "syllables" isn't the correct technical term, but for the moment we're looking at the similarity between music and language. In many ways, the beat of music is similar to the syllables of speech.
            There is a rhythm to speech we find appealing. That rhythm is similar to rhythm we tap our feet to or enjoy when we hear Dr. Suess. Rhythm is a foundational element to music, writing, and poetry. If you want success in those disciplines, you need to get your groove on. Rhythm is also the point where the three intersect. Song lyrics can be viewed as poetry that is voiced with an emphasis on changing pitch. Poetry is a song without strong emphasis on changing pitch. Music can be written without lyrics, but even without lyrics, there are certain patterns of rhythm our ears find appealing. Many of those patterns come from the way we speak our language.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Could Collective Bargaining be Uberized?

William looks at his half peanut butter sandwich. It’s all he can afford to eat. His wife, Wilma, a nurse, will be eating the other half later today at her lunch break. The only one in the family who eats a whole peanut butter sandwich is Willy Jr. And, sometimes, right before payday, even little Willy goes hungry.

William and Wilma work hard, yet they can’t seem to make ends meet. William picks at the blister on his hand. It has been bothering him all day, as he’s been making widgets for his company, Widgets R’ Us. William has sent out hundreds of resumes, all to jobs he’s highly qualified to do. But, none have panned out. He’s thinking about choking his neighbor Bob, who just yesterday was telling him, “If you don’t like your job, just find another.” Just find another! That’s not so easy. Like many workers, William has tried to find another, but jobs are scarce.

Meanwhile, Peter Pennipencher is riding in his limo to Widgets R’ Us. He is the CEO. His job is to screw everyone—workers, customers, the government; it doesn’t matter to Peter, as long as his company makes profit. That’s the only thing he’s hired to do—make profit for investors. If he does that in the short term, he gets perks on top of his multimillion-dollar salary. Right now he’s reading about a company that produces widgets overseas. They produce them cheaply, and it has Peter thinking about moving production overseas.

William is thinking it would be wonderful to unionize. But, he’s scared. He’s met Peter, and he knows Peter is a heartless bastard. He wouldn’t hesitate firing anyone who even whispers the word, “union”. Plus, William has been misclassified as an independent contractor, and word has leaked out that independent contractors don’t have the right to form a union. There have even been rumors about severe legal actions that would be taken against them. Peter is behind all the rumors. A union ruins his whole scheme. Just imagine workers wanting decent pay, legal protection under the law, and benefits? It would cut into the company’s profits—and, his stock options.

Peter is using every option at his command to “uberize” his workers. What he wants is a highly skilled, highly motivated, productive workforce; but, he doesn’t want to pay for it. He’ll use every trick in the book to cheat his workers out of pay and benefits. It’s what he’s paid to do! He uses all kinds of apps, computer models, and technological resources to coordinate his workers and eliminate the need for as many people as possible. It’s one of the reasons why his workers are so overworked.

But, let’s imagine for a moment that William and the other workers are able to unionize. The biggest barrier to that is fear. But, what if technology takes fear out of the equation? What if technology allows the workers to band together, but to do it anonymously? Without fear of retaliation, unionization might happen at the Widgets R’ Us factory, but workers are also afraid of outsourcing. But, what if the same technology that allows them to unionize, also allows them to coordinate with other workers in the factories overseas? What if it also allows them to coordinate with other workers in the same industry? All of a sudden, Peter’s power over his workers would fade. Right now, Peter’s workers are afraid of him? But, what if the tables turned? What if Peter was afraid of his workers?

Let’s imagine for a moment that a software developer comes up with an app called Unionize. It allows workers to anonymously sign up for an account and use a fake name on its online discussion board. It has to have an anonymous discussion board. Peter will eventually sign up for an account, and it’s important he’s sees how many of his worker want to band together, and what they really think of him and the company. It helps to increase the fear he experiences. It’s also good for Peter to know that his workers are coordinating their efforts with others in the industry, and the factories overseas. This increases his apprehension and his desires to appease his workers.

The app allows workers to pick their company, job title, and industry. As more workers sign up, it begins to build a database—of workers, companies, job titles, and industries. It also shows workers how many other similar workers are wanting to unionize to better themselves. It could be a powerful tool.

Imagine new features begin to be added to Unionize. It allows workers to chose whether they are classified as independent contractors or employees. It also has algorithms that estimate if workers were being misclassified, and if it is highly probably, the app immediately notifies the proper tax and labor departments. Now, more power is being given to workers.

Now, imagine the app includes categories of things such as wages, hours worked per week, paid sick days, paid vacation days, paid personal days, percentage of profit sharing, and cost of health insurance. The app could allow workers to choose what they felt were fair amounts for each of these categories. And, the app could include what the workers were actually receiving in each of these categories. Over time, the app would begin to give a picture of an industry. This information gives power to workers.

Now, imagine workers could supply estimates of how many workers were being employed by their employer. The app could track and make all this data available to users in real time. It could even provide algorithms that could estimate when a particularly company has enough workers interested in either forming a union or trying to improve worker pay and/or conditions. And, since the app already has information about wages and benefits, it could provide suggestions as to worker demands. Such an app could also calculate currencies worldwide to the home currency of each user, so it could give a global overview of an industry.

Because such an app could coordinate the activities of workers around the world in a particular industry, it could be useful for coordinating worker strikes; both locally and globally. Workers would now have the power to force an industry to its knees, and bring management to the bargaining table! And, they could do it anonymously.

Of course, then comes the rub. Someone has to show up at the table. And, those workers would face possible retaliation. So, let’s give the app another feature. Imagine it allows workers to nominate third party arbitrators—people who would represent the workers, but not be attached to the industry. The app could also allow workers to reveal their identities if they would like to be representatives of a company’s workers or an industry.

If someone could only uberize collective bargaining, it would be a tremendous tool in raising income and benefits to workers worldwide. Unfortunately, I don’t have the skills to develop such an app. But, if you have the skills, please take my idea and run with it. We’re living in an era where our standard of living is plummeting, and the only reason I can see for it is so Peter can live even larger than he’s already living. We need the power to return to the people.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Don’t Have Standard Students

            Auto manufacturers machine engine blocks to extremely tight tolerances. Each cylinder is exactly same—not just for a single block, but for every block for that particular engine model. The reason why is obvious. They need the pistons to fit, and every piston for that particular engine is also exactly the same—machined to extremely tight tolerances. It’s one of those round-pegs-in-round-holes type of situations.
            Standardizing education is like machining engine blocks to tight tolerances. Some believe if the block is machined correctly, the outcome will be a smooth running learning machine. But, there’s a problem. Students aren’t like pistons. Each one is different. Some may fit the system like a glove, but some are a little more awkward—fitting like a boot up someone’s ass. Or, even worse, some don’t fit at all.
            Suppose for a minute that auto manufacturers were no longer able to machine their pistons. Imagine they had to get all their piston from an outside source, and all the pistons were of various sizes. The only way they could make functioning engines is to start designing engine blocks to custom fit whatever pistons they had. The same applies to education. Bureaucrats have tried to mechanize learning, but in doing so, they haven’t followed a basic engineering principle. The peg must fit the hole!
            I am currently teaching online English classes to kids in China. One of my kids is a five-year old boy who is extremely energetic. Can you say ADHD? I knew you could! Now, imagine trying to teach English to this hyperactive little boy through an online system that resembles Skype. If I was in a face-to-face classroom, and had the freedom to teach him according to his learning style, I’d teach him English through calisthenics. J is for jumping jack: jump, jump, jump. P is for pushup: push, push, push. Today’s verb is run: run around the building, run around the building, run around the building. After he reached the point of exhaustion, I’d drag his little limp body to a desk and enjoy the 5 minutes of complete attention he’d give me until he fell asleep. Then, I’d go take a nap—a long nap, because this kid is exhausting!
            What do the “rules” of education say? They say when you’re teaching someone something that is new to go slowly—very slowly. The training the company I’m teaching for taught me to go very slowly for young kids. My thousands of hours of experience in the classroom say the same thing. We keep machining those cylinders that say, “for new material, go slowly—very slowly!” Now, I challenge you! Try to hold the attention span of a hyperactive, five-year old boy by going S-L-O-W-L-Y! I’m going S-L-O-W-L-Y, and all I see on my monitor is this kid crawling all over his room—jumping on the bed, showing me his feet (don’t ask me why, because I don’t know), playing with whatever toy he has in his hands, drinking his juice, . . . well, you get the point!
            Today I was teaching him the letter T—yeah me! Instead of going slowly, I instead tried speeding things up. Instead of, “T is for t-a-b-l-e” and then cupping my ear and waiting while he dances around the room, I sped it up and turned it into a little chant. Yes, I was being a little cheerleader with little dance moves and everything! “T is for table! T is for table! T is for table! T is for table!” While I wasn’t completely successful, because he has the attention span of a gnat, at times he starting parroting my cheers. High-speed, energetic chants seemed to work better than slow speed, patient conversation. Maybe this student is just a high-speed, energetic piston, and in order to reach him, I have to give him a high-speed, energetic cylinder. Today I broke the rules and I think it may have been the most successful lesson I’ve had with this kid in a long time. Sure, his attention faltered after about 15 minutes into his 25-minute lesson, but 15 minutes of decent attention was a miracle. Yes, I’m not an ordinary teacher. I’m a miracle worker! His attention did start to refocus near the end of the lesson as well. After class, I went down to the lake and was walking on water! Yes, I’m that good!

            Before we declare me a miracle worker, maybe I’m not the second coming. Maybe I was just following a basic principle of engineering—that the hole must be the right size for the peg. I don’t have any standard students. So, why does everyone want to keep forcing me to standardize education?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Time Isn't What We Perceive It to Be

            Every moment in time is a page in a book—a book that is already written, a complete volume resting in the library of the author. The moments that have gone before are still alive on the page. The moments that exist in the present are ink that has already dried. The moments in the future are already complete, but not read by human eyes.
            We already exist in the eternal state—whatever that might be, but it is beyond our meager faculties. Perhaps you doubt that we exist outside the constructs of time and space. If so, then consider prophecy. Things that happened in the past were predicted by men abiding in an even more ancient past. Things that will happen in the future have already been penned by men living before we were born. While the prophets existed on only a few pages of the book, part of them also existed outside—beyond the book, with the ability to flip the pages and see the past and present. Moses wrote of things that had gone before—of creation, Abraham, and the birth of the Children of Israel. Daniel saw kings and kingdoms—some that have already been, and some that are yet to be. Ezekiel saw wheels within wheels, and was transported to some abode we yet understand, where he could flip through and see some pages of the book.
            The human spirit, soul, or whatever name we want to give to the immaterial part of us, exists outside—outside the book, outside the realm of our perceptions, outside what we see, hear, live, and breathe. But, our body is like a book mark, pulling us to reside only on a single page. But, in the opening of the book, God breathed into mankind and we became living spirits—spiritual beings, who exist outside the book, designed to have eternal communion with him. It’s a communion that we don’t experience; and yet, we are already there.
            We have those fleeting moments—in dreams, visions, or when struck by utter terror, when we realize this page we are reading isn’t all there is. No, there’s more. There’s much more, and we long to experience that much more.
            Let’s consider the eternal state. I used to know for sure that there was a heaven and a hell—a place of constant bliss or constant torment. But, my surety was based on what I had been taught—conditioned to think that way by religious institution. I can’t say that way of thinking is wrong, but I can say it’s up for honest scrutiny. Men have taken those viewpoints from Scripture, but honest men have also taken other viewpoints from Scripture—including annihilation and universal salvation. So, let’s consider all three and how they fit in with our expanded view of time.
            I must at minimum question eternal torment, if for no other reason how it’s been used throughout history to control and manipulate people. It is the fear tactic of the institutional church, and it is an effective one. At this point, I can’t with any certainty declare this (or any of the other viewpoints) as being correct. As with most things, I suspect the true answer lies between the extremes being proposed. What if all three are correct? What if eternal torment, annihilation, and universal salvation are all true. But, how can that be?
            Those that hold to eternal torment divide people into two categories—the saved (those who have placed faith in Jesus), and the lost. But, in truth, the Bible divides people into at least three categories. There are the descendants of Adam, and within that broader category are those who have placed faith in Christ, and those who haven’t. But, there is another race of men called the Nephilim. These were a hybrid cross between fallen angels and human mothers. They are clearly described in Genesis six as existing before the Flood, but also afterwards. Many of the giants the Israelites later faced when crossing into the promised land came from this race. And, since the Israelites never completed their God-given mission of utterly destroying certain people groups, this hybrid race likely still exists today—probably parading as full-blooded members of the human race. The contemporary existence of the Nephilim is conjecture, but wasn’t isn’t conjecture is that the race existed. It’s what the Bible clearly teaches. This gives us at least three categories of men: 1) those from Adam who have accepted Christ, 2) those from Adam that haven’t accepted Christ, and 3) those from the Nephilim.
            When Jesus teaches of hell, it has to be considered in the context of the rest of his teachings. Didn’t he say the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat? Didn’t he say there would be a division between the sheep and the goats? Modern day Evangelicals will claim this is referring to their two categories—that the wheat and the sheep are those that have placed faith in Christ, and the tares and the goats are those that haven’t put faith in Christ. But, their interpretation doesn’t fit when you consider the Nephilim. The tares the enemy sowed were the Nephilim. Christ description of sowing (propagating) tares, fits in cleanly with the description given in Genesis six of the sons of God (a term clearly referring to angels) having relations with the daughters of men, and creating a hybrid offspring. Christ’s teaching of tares and goats most likely refers to the Nephilim—not to any pure-blood descendants of Adam. This turns Evangelical’s teaching of hell on the ear, for it seems Christ might really be teaching that eternal judgment falls on the Nephilim, which makes sense considering Scripture teaches that the lake of fire has been prepared for the devil and his angels. Doesn’t it make sense that’s where the descendants of the devil and his angels would also spend eternity?
            I know I’m bucking thousands of years of church dogma, but I’m doing so by using a clear teaching of Scripture that the church has been ignoring for centuries. Could it be the institutional church has been using fear to control people, when the people it is controlling have no reason to fear? At this point, I can’t say for sure. I’m just thinking things through.
            Let’s follow another train of thought. Let’s say the Nephilim don’t receive eternal torment, but instead face annihilation. Some may argue this isn’t possible, for the Scripture teaches everlasting punishment. But, let’s consider the nature of the book the author has written. The book is eternal. So, anything contained within the book is eternal. When the book is finally closed, all time ceases to exist, and everything within the book lasts forever—even if the characters within the book no longer experience the ink on the pages. The nature of the book allows for something to be eternal (because it is inked on the pages), but also not to exist outside the book in the eternal state. The nature of the book allows for both an eternality of torment, because the record is permanent, but also for an annihilation—in that something no longer has life and consciousness in the eternality that exists outside the book.
            Let’s consider the descendants of Adam. There are Scriptures that teach that those who accept Christ are saved. Further discussion for this group of people isn’t really necessary—for whether one accepts the concept of universal bliss for a select few, or accepts the concept of universal salvation, this group is set for eternity.
            How about those descendants of Adam that don’t accept Christ? We can’t assume the teaching of the church for hundreds of years is correct, because the church’s teaching is based on two categories of people, when in truth there are at least three. What if the teachings on eternal torment apply only the Nephilim? It seems many of the teachings of Jesus in reference to eternal torment applies specifically to this group, because it is the common sense reading once the doctrine of the Nephilim is accepted. Could it be that those who don’t accept Christ receive torment for a period of time, and that torment is considered eternal, because it is permanently inked in the book? But, when it comes to the eternal state that exists outside the book, God saves all descendants of Adam?
            At this point, I don’t have any definite answers. The only definite answer I have is that the church’s teaching on eternity and the eternal state is incorrect, because it is based on the faulty assumption of a two-fold division of mankind, when in truth there is a three-fold division: two divisions for the race of Adam, and the hybrid race of the Nephilim. Both the nature of the book, as well as the three-fold division of mankind has me questioning if annihilation, eternal torment, and universal salvation might all be true doctrine.